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‘Hard to watch’: South Central Ambulance’s chief executive on damning report highlighting service failures


Sep 23, 2022

THE chief of the ambulance service covering Oxfordshire said that a damning report highlighting the service’s failures was “not a surprise” but “really hard to watch.”

Will Hancock, South Central Ambulance’s chief executive, was speaking in front of Oxfordshire County Council’s health committee yesterday, after a report found that the service is “inadequate”, with people waiting too long for treatment, untrained staff and medicines not always managed safely.

The Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of health and social care in England, rated South Central Ambulance Service “inadequate” – the lowest rating on their scale – following an inspection in April and May.

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Councillor Jane Hanna, who chairs the committee, said: “The report highlights some very serious concerns and certainly as a committee we think it’s really important for the public to pick up on it.”

Barbara Shaw, a co-opted member of the committee, said: “It’s always really disappointing when you see an organisation whose management and governance is set as being inadequate, it’s a grave area of concern.”

The report found that delays in reaching people who had requested emergency assistance were “frequent and prolonged”, medicines were “not always managed safely or effectively”, and that the trust was not meeting key performance standards for call and response times.

Mr Hancock said: “I personally knew we were carrying a lot of risk as a result of the pressure the organisation had been under.

“Things are still continuing to be under extreme pressure in the NHS and I don’t think it came as a surprise.

“It’s been very sad for lots of people within the organisation, including me. With people coming in everyday and doing extraordinary things to keep the show on the road, and then to recognise that we are moving backwards on where we want to be, it has been really hard to watch that happen."

Oxford Mail:

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In Oxfordshire, last month 9 out of 10 patients category 1 patients – those with life-threatening injuries – were reached within 18 minutes and 33 seconds, with the average wait across all patients being 10 minutes and 5 seconds.

Mr Hancock said: “One of our call centres is in Bicester and we are struggling to retain call handling staff in particular. There is also a national shortage of paramedics.

“Response times are important in terms of safety – in responding to calls in category 1 and 2, every second counts on those and it’s an area of focus for us.

“Services are under an incredible amount of pressure and this a big drop in our ratings, which prior to 2020 we all moving towards ‘outstanding’.

“We have taken rapid action on some areas but there are some deeper issues for our sector and things that we need to modernise within the ambulance service.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi