Ambulance services in England have been warned that they face tougher and more frequent unannounced visits by teams of Care Quality Commission inspectors from next January.
The warning came from David Davis, Director of the Independent Ambulance Association, the leading representative organisation
for regulated ambulance companies.
Addressing a health management seminar in London Davis said that the IAA, together with the NHS ambulance trusts and voluntary organisations, were working together on a CQC ambulance advisory panel to help finalise the details of a new compliance inspection regime and he added:
“The IAA is a strong advocate of continuously ‘raising the bar’ and we’re encourage that the CQC has indicated it will respond positively to our proposals to make it more difficult for companies to be registered in the first place and then meet all the criteria for delivering high quality patient transport services.”
Under the CQC plans which come into force in 2015, the inspectors will assess all ambulance providers on 5 key questions: Are they safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.
Davis said: “To answer these questions the inspectors will increase the frequency of their unannounced visits to check ambulances inside and out, review personnel employment and training files, analyse operational records, talk with employees, customers and patients, and interview managements on their corporate culture.
“Our members are supportive of the new robust regime and will co-operate fully with the inspectors; equally they are hopeful that the inspections will be carried out constructively and that the reporting of their findings will be fair and transparent”.
The inspection reports will be published on the CQC website and to help people compare the services of NHS ambulance trusts, independent companies and voluntary organisations, each will include a rating outstanding; good; requires improvement and inadequate.
The CQC will have legal enforcement powers to require providers to improve, making sure those responsible for poor care are held accountable for it.
“In addition the IAA will itself take strong action, including suspension and expulsion, against any member which seriously breaches the CQC compliance rules” Davis added.
Davis said that the IAA was particularly encouraged that the CQC had recognised the importance of ambulance services by including the new regime as one of the key responsibilities for Sir Mike Richards, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals.
“We fully endorse his view that relevant elements of the ambulance service should be aligned with other sectors and providers, including general practice, 111 and out-of-hours services.”