North West Ambulance Service 'requires improvement'
The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust has been told it "requires improvement" by a health regulator.
The Care Quality Commission report was compiled after a five-day announced visit and a surprise inspection.
Concerns included a high level of vacancies among front-line paramedics, the trust's complaints policy and mental capacity assessments.
But the inspection also praised three areas of "outstanding practice" and the trust's "exceptionally caring" staff.
The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, said: "Inspectors found a number of improvements were needed at North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust."
He said there were "concerns surrounding staff training and whether the service had enough staff to meet the needs of the service and patients", adding that the trust's overall vacancy rate was "5.7% at the time of the inspection".
The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) covers Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. It operates around 1,000 vehicles on both emergency and non-emergency operations.
Sir Mike added: "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."
Additional inspection findings included:
- Some staff confused the Mental Capacity Act with the Mental Health Act
- There was no fixed timescale to investigate complaints
- Equipment checks for first responders were irregular and not recorded adequately
However, areas of "outstanding practice" included the Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART) in Manchester and Merseyside, the way patient information is shared with ambulance clinicians and an app which allows call centre staff to direct callers to their nearest defibrillator location.
The report also noted: "All staff observed were exceptionally caring in their approach and went above and beyond the call of duty to provide compassionate supportive care."
NWAS chief executive Derek Cartwright said: "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."