The region’s ambulance service still does not have enough staff to keep patients safe, as bosses were slammed in its latest inspection report.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) visited the East of England Ambulance Trust (EEAST) in April and May and although the overall rating remained at requires improvement, there was a disconnect between staff and leaders as the former were seen as outstanding and the latter as inadequate.
Chief inspector of hospitals Professor Ted Baker said: "We were particularly concerned that there had been significant turnover within the senior leadership team over the last 12 months. At the time of our inspection, key members of the board were in interim positions."
This newspaper reported earlier this month how Lindsey Stafford-Scott had become the fourth director in a year to resign at EEAST, while three other major posts were only filled temporarily.
Staff were seen as outstanding and resilient and Prof Baker said they were "overwhelmingly caring and dedicated to providing the best care they could".
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He said there was evidence of this in the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) receiving praise for saving a fire officer's life during a major incident. They also won a Stars of Norfolk and Waveney award last year for their action during the Beast from the East episode of bad weather, when a crew travelled on foot through snow to retrieve a patient in an isolated location and brought the patient to a road ambulance.
The report said: "Despite factors such as high service demand and frequent callers, staff strived to always provide care that was compassionate, respectful, supportive, never time-rushed and met patients' needs."
But Prof Baker added: "The services still did not have enough staff to care for patients and keep them safe despite a focus on recruitment and retention. People continued to wait too long for services and response times, although improved, were worse than the England average. While the quality of services had not declined - and there were signs of improvement in specific areas - there were continued areas of breaches in regulation, such as with the safe management of medicines. We have told the trust it must take act immediately to make those improvements."
The report said there had been "significant churn" in bosses at the trust. However it added: "Staff told us that the culture of the organisation was beginning to re-focus on putting the patient at the heart of everything they did. Staff told us that the new CEO had provided a 'buffer' from external scrutiny which allowed them to focus on delivering quality care."
Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group - the lead commissioner on behalf of a consortium of 19 CCGs in the area - said: "The paramedics, technicians, control room staff and volunteers should be rightly proud of the work they do. People call the ambulance service at some of the worst times of their lives, so to retain outstadning for care and move to good for being responsive is important progress. While there is much to do, the new chief executive and chairman are making clear improvements."
Nigel Beverley, EEAST interim chairman, said: "I am pleased to have joined EEAST at such an important stage in its improvement journey. There has been turnover within the trust board in the last few months. However, we are strengthening the leadership and rebuilding the senior team over the next 12 months."
Dorothy Hosein, interim chief executive, said: "I am delighted to see that this report rightly pays tribute to the outstanding care that our staff and volunteers deliver to patients on a daily basis. I am pleased that the inspectors noted the positive changes underway. Over the coming months my commitment is to ensure that our patients and staff really feel the impact of these improvements."