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Action to improve the North East's ambulance service is vital after critical CQC report

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found a deterioration of services and rates North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust's (NEAS) urgent care as inadequate. 

The damning assessment follows the launch of a full independent review into numerous tragic failings, involving patients, which was announced by former health secretary Sajid Javid.

The review of NEAS concluded that patients were potentially put at risk by the poor management of medicines in the service. The Trust has now been issued with a warning notice following the CQC inspection.

At the time Mr Javid has said that he was deeply concerned about claims NEAS had covered up mistakes. 

The BBC reports that there have been whistleblowers who have informed Newsnight that multiple deaths weren't investigated properly due to information not always being provided to coroners and families.

What the CQC say

Sarah Dransfield, the CQC’s deputy director of operations in the north, said that when the health watchdog inspected NEAS, it found a deterioration in the services being provided, especially in urgent and emergency care where this had potential for people to be placed at risk of harm.

Ms Dransfield had advised it was particularly concerning that staff didn't always have access to critical medicines needed to treat patients and some crews didn't have time to complete vehicle medicine checks, resulting in treatment delays. 

A staff survey carried out as part of the inspection, revealed workers felt under pressure and didn't feel supported or valued. With some employees saying they felt uneasy about raising concerns for fear of blame of reprisal.

Ms Dransfield goes on to say that the CQC was concerned that the Trust wasn't always thoroughly investigating incidents and may have made decisions based on limited information, reducing the ability to identify learning and prevent reoccurrence.

The investigation further revealed that there were inadequate numbers of call handlers to manage the volume of 111 non-emergency calls. From July 2021 to June 2022, the average ring time was 50 times longer than the national target. Further, the review found 38% of calls were abandoned, in comparison to the national target of 3%.

The CQC concluded that staff acted in a "respectful and considerate way" with patients and collaborated well to prioritise and provide care in the most critical cases.

The NEAS response

Helen Ray, NEAS' chief executive, said that over the last 12 months the ambulance service and the NHS as a whole had faced unprecedented pressures. Providing the best possible care to all patients remained its top priority. Ms Ray goes on to say, the service is committed to making improvements.


Delays in ambulance responses or poor care can have a devastating effect on patients and their loved ones. Sadly when things go they're understandably left with many questions and may need further treatment or specialist support to try and rebuild their lives. 

We can only hope that the Trust make the recommended improvements needed to ensure patient safety throughout the service. Although nothing can make up for the experience patients have had because of the failings, we hope that positive change is made which will avoid such circumstances from occurring.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting people and their families affected by healthcare issues at our dedicated medical negligence section.

Ambulance crews in the North East frequently responded to emergencies without access to life-saving drugs, a damning inspection report has found.

The study of North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NEAS) concluded patients were potentially put at risk by the poor management of medicines.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found a deterioration of services and rated NEAS's urgent care as "inadequate".”