Enforcement action has been taken against a private ambulance service covering the Westcountry after a swoop by inspectors found it was failing key safety standards.
NSL, formerly car park giant NCP, runs non-urgent patient transport services across the Westcountry but has been ordered to make urgent improvements after a health watchdog discovered a raft of issues.
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out a surprise inspection and this morning has said it is taking enforcement action after finding the company had not trained staff properly.
The CQC said they were also concerned that the recruitment and selection process was not robust enough, meaning unsuitable people may be working in the service.
In their highly critical report, inspectors found that care and treatment was not always planned and delivered in a way that was intended to ensure people's safety and welfare.
They found staff were not always trained and supervised, quality checking systems were not in place, and a complaints system was not in place.
Last month, health bosses issued an ultimatum to a private company running non-emergency patient transport in Devon and Cornwall, saying it has one last chance to get services up to scratch.
Belinda Webb, head of communications at NSL, said action would be taken.
"We acknowledge this week’s CQC’s report, based on its inspection in June, of our patient transport operations in the South West.
"The CQC highlighted the standard relating to workers and in ensuring those colleagues working with patients are fully checked. We would like to reassure our patients that all of our colleagues undergo DBS (criminal record) checks; however, an administrative error meant that these checks were not recorded on the hard copy personnel files of two of our colleagues, which have since been rectified.
"Whilst we do not seek to minimise or justify this administrative oversight, it’s important to place this in context. In meeting the demand for non-emergency patient transport in the South West and to improve consistency of timeliness, since going live in October 2013, NSL has undertaken additional recruitment and invested in more vehicles. Since March, when we had 158 patient transport staff, we have recruited an additional 53 people, bringing it to a current 211. We have invested in an additional nine ambulances and eleven cars, and the increase in both staff and vehicles reflects the demand on the service.
"The issues that the CQC highlight and that are in our control have been addressed and we are confident that other managerial issues will be addressed with lessons learnt.
"As part of our investment in the south west we have appointed additional managers to ensure that our improved processes are fully embedded. We are continuing to work very closely with Commissioners and hospitals on the timeliness of patient transport and the whole patient transport experience and the changes we can all make to improve this.
"The safety and experience of each individual patient is our priority. It is important to note that the vast majority of patients are transported early and on time. Latest patient satisfaction results show that out of 237 patients surveyed, 232 would recommend the NSL to friends or family and that complaints in July represented just 0.02% of journeys.
"We shall provide the CQC with a plan early next week detailing the action already taken and the action currently taking place, with timescales for each. "