East of England Ambulance Service still failing 999 call targets, says CQC

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Media captionThe new chief executive of the trust, Dr Anthony Marsh, has welcomed the report

The East of England Ambulance Service is still failing to meet response times to life-threatening 999 calls, despite "significant improvements" in a number of areas, a report has said.

The Care Quality Commission's (CQC) previous criticism over poor response times led to management changes.

In its latest report it said the impact on patients waiting for transport to hospital remained a "moderate concern".

The service said improvements to highlighted problems were under way.

The trust's five non-executive directors resigned in June after a critical report said the board's leadership "just isn't strong enough" to take the service forward.

Its interim chairman Geoff Harris also stepped down from his post on Tuesday, four months early, but a reason for the departure has yet to be announced.

'Excessive times'

The latest CQC report, which follows an inspection in December, said patient experience with crews overall was "very good" and staff absenteeism rates and complaints about ambulance delays had fallen.

It said the trust consistently met targets related to less urgent calls, and there was evidence to show that long waits for back-up vehicles to take people to hospital in life-threatening instances were decreasing in some areas.

But the report said response times to life-threatening 999 calls had not seen the required improvements and some senior fire officers said crews often waited "excessive times" for an ambulance to arrive following road traffic accidents.

All NHS ambulance services must respond to at least 75% of Category A life-threatening calls within eight minutes.

The CQC said that because the trust was taking "reasonable steps" to address its breaches, no further enforcement action would be taken.

But because the impact on people waiting to be taken to hospital remained a "moderate concern", those concerns would be escalated to the Trust Development Authority to take action.

The service's chief executive, Dr Anthony Marsh, said the trust had already started recruiting 400 student paramedics to tackle long term staffing issues, which had been noted as key to many of the trust's problems, and he said extra training was being provided for existing staff.

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