The CQC team included more than 50 inspectors assessing the 999 emergency operations centre; urgent and emergency care services; patient transport services; emergency planning and resilience; and NHS111 against their five domains of safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led services.
Their report concluded: ‘Overall, we rated all of the five key domains as good, which meant the overall rating for the trust was also good.’
But it also highlighted that ambulance performance standards were not being achieved and that NEAS had a shortage of paramedics.
NEAS chief executive Yvonne Ormston said: “I am delighted that our service has been rated as good overall. This is fabulous news for our organisation and testament to the care and professionalism that all of our staff dedicate to our patients and service. Our workforce is dedicated to providing the best possible patient care, often in incredibly difficult circumstances and I am pleased on their behalf that this has been recognised.
“More than 2.7million people across the North East rely on our services and the CQC has recognised the pivotal role we are playing in the development of urgent and emergency care services in our community.”
She added: “While we have demonstrated that our service is good for patients, we know there are areas we need to improve. We are doing everything possible to recruit paramedics and we are working with NHS commissioners and hospitals to relieve the pressures of handover delays.
“These are national issues affecting all ambulance services, but the CQC rating is an encouraging acknowledgement that we are doing everything possible to address these issues.”
Inspectors’ comprehensive assessment of NEAS took place in April and was followed up with an unannounced return the following month to review services. The CQC found a culture of passion and enthusiasm with a focus on the patient. Patients told inspectors they were happy with the care they received.
Several areas of outstanding practice are highlighted in the CQC report, including the introduction of advanced practitioners to care for patients with chronic and multiple conditions in the community; paramedic research and development; the enrolment into the MIND blue-light mental health programme to support ambulance staff; and the ‘flight deck’ system which monitors hospital capacity and demand in real-time to manage pressures in the system and divert patients to alternative care when necessary.
Eight of the 10 ambulance services in England have now been inspected with the new ratings and only one other has achieved an equivalent rating from the CQC.
In the North East region, the NEAS rating sits alongside three other trusts rated as good, three trusts rated as outstanding and four trusts rated as requires improvement.