More staff needed for ambulances

Derek Cartwright, acting director of operations at NWAS
Derek Cartwright, acting director of operations at NWAS

Ambulance service bosses are recruiting workers from abroad as they aim to tackle staffing problems.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns about staffing levels and vacancy rates when they inspected North West Ambulance service (NWAS).

The watchdog found NWAS needed to improve.

It was rated as “requires improvement” on safety, leadership and emergency and urgent care services, and “good” for being effective, caring and responsive.

Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, said: “The overall vacancy rate for the trust was 5.7 per cent at the time of the inspection.

“The trust had already employed 35 new European paramedics in Greater Manchester at the time of our inspection. There were plans to recruit a further 36 with 24 of these being appointed to north Cumbria. There were concerns surrounding staff training and whether the service had enough staff to meet the needs of the service and patients.

“There were also concerns surrounding how safeguarding issues and incidents were reported, and the communication around complaints to the service.

“It is vital that a busy service like NWAS has sufficient numbers of staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to meet patients’ needs and we will be monitoring the trust’s progress in securing additional staff as a matter of priority.”

NWAS’ chief executive Derek Cartwright said: “We accept the comments in the report relating to improvements required for procedures, guidelines and training, however the inspection took place almost 10 months ago and the majority of the points highlighted have already been addressed.

“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for the organisation with unprecedented demand for our services and it is unfortunate that by not reviewing policies and guidelines as often as we should, we are in the position we are now.

“We are determined to right this as soon as possible and ensure that staff are given adequate time to complete their mandatory training.”

Unison’s NWAS branch secretary Jeff Gorman said more NHS funding was needed and a review of how paramedics are trained.

He said: “There are too few staff to deal with the growing number of 999 calls coming in. But that’s a problem across the whole of the country, not just the North West.”