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Watchdog’s criticism of private ambulances

THE firm responsible for taking patients to Kent hospitals has been slammed for a series of failings. During a surprise visit in November, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that NSL Kent employed people without making necessary legal Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) — formerly CRB — checks. Some patients were also left waiting hours for transport which, in some cases, did not arrive at all. The private ambulance service based in Larkfield has a contract to transport all non-emergency patients to hospitals in Kent and Medway including QEQM, Canterbury, Ashford, Whitstable, Herne Bay and Faversham. The inspection took place after complaints to the CQC.

Effective

Inspectors also found NSL Kent did not have an effective system to assess and monitor the quality of its service and learning from incidents and investigations was not quick enough. Complaints about the service were investigated but were not responded to or resolved in a timely manner. Adrian Hughes, regional director for CQC in the South, said:

“People rely on services like NSL Kent to make sure that they reach their hospital appointments on time. Individuals may already be anxious about their appointment so when transport is late, or does not arrive at all, this can add to the stress and lead to missed appointments. The impact of this on the individual is potentially serious and it also has a detrimental impact on the other health services involved.”

The CQC pledged to continue to monitor NSL Kent. A spokesman for NSL said:

“A CQC audit of NSL Care Services operations in Kent in November 2013 reported that four out of five areas did not meet the mandatory standards that apply to all healthcare providers. NSL Care Services has worked on these areas with the urgency they warrant. Its management has also benefited from the dedicated focus of our chief ambulance officer and our clinical governance managers, who is overseeing compliance and patient safety. The statutory vetting process has now been completed for all NSL employees in Kent, with the exception of those colleagues on long-term sick. The patient query and complaints service has been centralised into NSL’s main contact centre in Shrewsbury which has tightened up the process, and shortened the time in which all comments and complaints are responded to, learnt from, and acted upon.”

Chief ambulance officer Wayne Spedding apologised for the problems and said they were being addressed. NSL Kent takes part in monthly monitoring meetings with NHS bosses where, said a spokesman for the CCG, concerns are discussed.

Herne Bay Times, February 6th 2014

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