The Healthcare Commission said Staffordshire ambulance NHS trust used poorly trained volunteers to act as “community first responders” to get to emergencies ahead of paramedics. They were authorised to drive at speed, using blue lights and sirens, without the necessary advanced driving training.
The trust supplied ambulance staff and volunteers with controlled drugs that they were not legally allowed to possess, including the sedatives diazepam and midazolam. It also failed to keep proper records of medicines, which regularly went missing from ambulance stations. Patients were sometimes given larger packs of controlled drugs than they needed and told to dispose of the excess themselves.
It's not the London ambulance service, but it just goes to show what lengths trusts will go to in order to hit these targets. A strange first sentence though, “Maverick”. Will the police be looking into whoever illegally supplied the Controlled Drugs?
It said Thayne, a former army officer, was described by senior staff at the trust as “a benevolent dictator”.
From what I hear, that's not what the ambulance crews on the road called him…
The commission blamed regional and local NHS managers for not asking searching questions. “This complacency was brought about by the trust's ability to exceed the Department of Health's targets,” it said.
In other words, “They were hitting their targets, so we didn't look too closely at how they were doing it”.
I think that community first responders are a good idea, out in the country every little town can't have an ambulance sitting waiting for someone to become ill. However, they shouldn't be whizzing around on blue lights, not without training. And with blue-light training you may as well train them to ambulance technician standards – but, oh, that would cost money.
(Although as far as I know the legislation about driving an emergency vehicle is a bit wishy-washy – any experts reading this, please do chip in).
The commission report has this to say,
Some of the problems may have arisen because the trust perpetuated the belief that the role of a CFR was broadly equivalent to that of an ambulance technician. Although the trust, when compared with other ambulance trusts, provided more training for CFRs, this was not comparable to the training given to ambulance technicians.
From the Healthcare commission themselves,
The Commission points out that the trust was a good performer in terms of response times for emergency calls. It was considered to be innovative in its introduction of new equipment and services and had good relationships with patients and the public.
But, the investigation found that these achievements were undermined by a culture and approach that did not prioritise safety and that put patients at risk.
So once more, evidence that the ORCON target puts patients lives at risk,