SECAMB Ambulance Trust: CQC Uncovers Further Evidence of Mismanagement & Possible Clinical Negligence

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report commissioned for May 2016 has found further evidence of underhanded management tactics and substandard patient care at the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAMB).

The beleaguered service provider initially came under investigation from the CQC back in October 2015 amidst accusations that “poor leadership” had “put patient safety at risk” by – amidst other things – delaying patient calls to their 111 advice service to give staff more time to address calls already underway.

Culture of Bullying and Harassment a Cause of Poor Performance

Initially, the service’s computer-aided dispatch system (CAD) was blamed for inefficient handling of calls and inaccurate dispatch information. CQC probes into the matter found evidence of crews being provided with outdated maps, and later supplemented these findings with indications of a “culture of bullying and harassment” amongst staff, with key officials refusing to take responsibility for major failings, as we mentioned in a previous article on the poor response times of NHS medical response teams.

SECAMB Chairman Resigns Over Scandal

March 2016 saw the trust’s then-Chairman; Tony Thorne, resign amidst the scandal, with Chief Executive Paul Sutton following suit in May. Geraint Davies took the reins as Acting Chief Executive of a service failing to meet response-time targets for more than 1,000 patient calls a week.

Patient Concerns Surrounding Clinical Negligence at an All-Time High

May’s CQC report however is likely to see the Trust embroiled in further scandal. Patient concerns surrounding medical negligence are set to reach an all-time high as it emerges that under Sutton’s leadership during a winter 2014/15 pilot project, the service actively sought to circumvent regulations surrounding response-time monitoring. It did this by exploiting a rule that allowed them to buy more time through transferring calls to the 999 service, even when this wasn’t necessary. Internal review processes at SECAMB have since discerned that the scheme was launched in secret by Sutton without the approval of board members, 111 NHS helpline staff or commissioners.

Staff Shortages Also to Blame for SECAMB Scandal

The CQC’s report also highlights a number of other key areas in dire need of improvement. The trust has been asked to recruit and deploy more staff to deal with incoming 111 calls, and to implement a new registering system to adequately document the equipment available to staff. A new Patient Safety and Quality Director is also to be appointed to address serious concerns relating to staff not properly understanding and administering medicines to patients – a notion that will understandably terrify both contemporary and prospective users of the service.

A year and a half into its existence, the NHS 111 service at SECAMB and other institutions remains a source of concern for the CQC, and for patients worried that they are not receiving acceptable care. Pressure on SECAMB continues to mount amidst concerns surrounding kit, medicines, staffing and temporary leadership. Acting Chief Executive Geraint Davies, issued the following statement to the BBC:

“Along with the rest of the trust’s executive team, our priority now is to focus on addressing the issues which the CQC has highlight…We know that there is a lot that the trust needs to do to improve compliance with a number of systems and processes to ensure the safety of our patients…My aim is to restore public confidence and faith in our service.”

So far SECAMB has failed to meet the target to respond to 75% of Red 1 emergency calls (the most serious) within 8 minutes in any month in 2016.*

If you or a family member has been impacted by the poor care provided by your local ambulance service, you may be entitled to clinical negligence compensation. Call Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors today on 0800 083 5500 to receive free initial advice on claiming compensation for medical negligence. Whilst compensation cannot undue the illness, pain and suffering experienced as a result of poor care, it can assist you in moving forward with your and your family’s life following such an unfortunate incident.

Where Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors agrees to pursue a claim for medical negligence compensation on your behalf, this will be on a no win, no fee basis.

*Comment based on data derived from NHS England:
https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ambulance-quality-indicators/ (accessed on 03/08/2016)