When the KRA started to look at the ambulance service we concentrated on the proposed closure of the Knaphill ambulance station with staff and vehicles being transferred to Ottershaw. However the bigger picture is more worrying.
Our ambulance service is provided by South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) and this is an NHS foundation trust. SECAmb covers Kent, Surrey, Sussex and NE Hampshire, the first question is this too big to be efficient? On the 29September the Core Quality Commission published their inspection report and overall the quality of service provided by SECAmb was rated as inadequate for the second consecutive inspection and the service was put into special measures. When the CQC put an organisation into special measures it means that they have no confidence in the current management team bringing about sufficient change to improve the situation. I have now read the 29 page executive summary and it does not make pleasant reading.
One of the areas where the CQC is highly critical is the ambulance service’s response to serious 999 calls.
The first test is the speed the ambulance service answers 999 calls and according to the CQC SECAmb is benchmarked as the worst performing trust nationally for answering 999 calls within 5 seconds.
Turning to the time taken for an ambulance to reach the patient. Serious 999 calls are slit into Red1 and Red2. Red1 calls are those of life threatening nature and Red2 calls less urgent but including strokes and fits. For Red1 calls the target is for the response to be within 8 minutes and this should be achieved on at least 75% occasions to meet the national target. SECAmb only achieved 71%. For Red2 the national target for responding within 9 minutes is 75%, SECAmb only achieved 67.3%. The CQC state that the performance was significantly varied between different control centres within the trust. For one control centre the performance fell as low as 33% for Red1 calls and 55.8% for Red2 calls. The CQC do not name any ambulance station so we do not know how Knaphill or Ottershaw perform when compared to the national targets.
Returning to where we started, the future of the Knaphill ambulance station. The KRA has sent both Jonathan Lord MP and County Cllr. Saj Hussain a number of questions that we feel residents need answers to to measure the quality of service they received from the Surrey based ambulance stations and what the impact of the closure will have on response times.
There were good points in the CQC report. The CQC rated the service good for caring and the attitude from staff to their patients.