East Midlands Ambulance Service: Trust makes 'significant improvements'
A previously-troubled ambulance service has made significant improvements, a regulator has found.
East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust has been rated "good" by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), after being told in 2017 changes were needed.
Inspectors found the service had new ways of call handling, which helped staff better deal with major incidents.
The trust was rated as outstanding for being "caring", one of the CQC's key grading areas.
The ambulance service, which serves about 4.8 million people across six counties, has faced financial problems in recent years - with an £11.9m deficit in 2016 - and had some of the worst response times in England.
The latest inspection, between April and May, found a "significant number of improvements" had been made and "highlighted areas of outstanding practice".
One of those areas was the introduction of an Urgent Care Transport Service, designed to reduce delays for patients and pressures on ambulance crews.
However, the CQC also identified 24 areas for the trust to work to "improve service quality", including the timeliness of patient transport, auditing learning from incidents and complaints, and mental health training for staff.
Chief inspector Professor Ted Baker said staff at the trust should "be proud of their work".
"We found improvements across the service and the trust leadership, and staff had clearly worked extremely hard to bring about changes to benefit patients across the East Midlands," he added.
The service said its response times in the past year had fallen by 34 seconds for a category 1 call - about people with life-threatening injuries or illnesses - and five minutes for a category 2 - less serious but still emergency cases.
Last year the service was 59 seconds short of the national target of seven minutes in responding to the most urgent emergencies. This year's report said its average response had improved to seven minutes and 25 seconds.
The service was also told improvement was required to improve waiting times for patients requiring transport to and from hospital for scheduled treatments such as renal dialysis.
EMAS chief executive Richard Henderson acknowledged there was still work to do.
"The report also includes areas for improvement which supports us in our journey to become an outstanding organisation," he said.
Gradual improvements at East Midlands Ambulance Service
2015: Failed to hit targets to reach the highest priority calls for a fifth year running
2016: Overspent by almost £12m and staff reported to be unable to take scheduled breaks
2017: No longer rated inadequate for safety but the trust continued to be rated as requires improvement
2018: Given an extra £19m to recruit 300 extra staff after failing to hit targets for response times
2019: Rated "good" in a CQC inspection.