Ambuline ambulance firm praised by Care Quality Commission
A company under fire for long delays in getting patients to and from hospital appointments has won praise from a health watchdog.
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said Ambuline – part of Arriva Transport Solutions – had improved and was now meeting all the required standards.
However, the company, which won a five-year contract worth £31.1 million last year, could still have cash docked for failing to meet all its performance targets.
In September, CQC inspectors found patients were often picked up late, there was no proper plan in place for cleaning ambulances and new staff were allowed to start work before Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks were complete.
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However, during a follow-up check, they found more staff had been recruited and all those who came into contact with patients had had a CRB check.
A proper cleaning programme was also in place.
The report said patients who spoke to inspectors "were generally all positive about their experiences" and drivers "were all very good".
"One person told us they felt the service had improved in the past two months. At first it was quite chaotic but it's much better now," the inspectors reported.
However, they found some patients were still waiting a long time to get home after appointments.
Brian Drury, a spokesman for Arriva, said: "The Care Quality Commission noticed several improvements and reported we are now fully compliant with its quality standards. But we want to go further and have added to our fleet 10 'combi' vehicles which are able to take wheelchairs and have recruited more staff.
"We have also appointed two champions who supervise patients' safety."
Satellite stations have been created at community hospitals to help speed up the availability of vehicles and reduce journey times.
Some drivers have been trained to 999 standards in case they are needed in an emergency.
Mr Drury said: "Despite severe snow and floods this winter, we managed to maintain performance standards overall.
"However, further improvements are still required in arrival and departure times."
In January, Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland primary care trust (PCT) said it was keeping back £12,636 in payment to Arriva for failing to meet performance targets for the previous three months.
Further penalties may be imposed unless end-of-year figures show the overall contract standards have been met.
Ron Jenkins, 75, of Wymeswold, missed a hospital appointment in October because his transport was late.
Although, he got to another appointment on time in December the company had to order him a taxi to get him home.
Mr Jenkins said: "Improvements are still needed."