Ambulance service criticised for repeated failures and bullying

Ambulance service criticised for repeated failures and bullying

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The ambulance service that covers Tunbridge Wells has come under fire from two sources this week, as one union representative told the operator to ‘come clean’ about its failings.

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, made the remark about South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) shortly after it was told it need to make ‘significant improvements’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on Monday.

In further comments likely to raise tensions between GMB – whose members include workers in the ambulance service – and SECAmb, the union also said it received reports of staff ‘being bullied’ by management.

It comes after a report compiled following an inspection by the CQC found ‘a number’ of systems and processes which are not operating effectively and NHS 111 calls were not being managed ‘in a timely manner’.

The trust now has until September to address the immediate concerns highlighted before a second report is published later in the year, the commission said.

However, the GMB said SECAmb staff have reported that the system experiences constant loading errors, runs slowly and that they experience regular system crashes.

This results in dispatchers unable to answer calls, contact ambulances or despatch resources within the required times putting patient safety at risk, they added.

Mr Palmer said: “Despite recent, well publicised scandals which ultimately cost both the chairman Tony Thorne and chief exec Paul Sutton their jobs, this trust continues to ignore its significant and potentially life threatening problems.

“Ongoing issues with the computerised display system are serious and yet, although data on failures is recorded for executives, nothing has been done to correct, repair or replace the system altogether.”

Gary Palmer

He said there has been an ‘alarming number of missed calls’ and emergency operation centre staff have been forced to revert to ‘pen and paper’, to take down patient’s details after a full system failure.

“The trust must come clean to GMB members, staff and the public about problems with its computer system and what they intend to do to rectify it,” Mr Palmer added, before calling on the government to intervene.

Acting Chief Executive of SECAmb, Geraint Davies said: “The Trust is sorry for not providing the service that the communities we serve should expect and deserve.”

SECAmb’s Interim Chairman, Sir Peter Dixon admitted there have been some ‘serious failings’ which need to be ‘addressed quickly’, adding the service will keep the public updated with their progress.