South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Department of Health written question – answered on 17th November 2015.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to set up a public inquiry into the actions of the South East Coast Ambulance NHS Trust in delaying its response to patients with life-threatening conditions who contacted the 111 service.

Photo of Lord Prior of Brampton Lord Prior of Brampton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health

We are advised that Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts, is taking action with South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust regarding concerns about the project and the regulator is working with the Trust now to identify the negative impact this project could have had on patients. It is Monitor’s function to undertake such investigations independently of the Department. Monitor and Departmental officials regularly discuss such issues on a routine basis.

As part of regulatory action, Monitor advises it has asked the Trust to carry out a detailed independent review of the impact the project had on patients. Monitor has asked the Trust to do this with the help of an external expert, who the regulator will select. The full details of what the review will look at and how long it will take are being worked on by the trust and Monitor, including consideration of publication of the review findings.

Monitor sets the governance and operational standards, or ‘bar’, that all NHS foundation trusts must meet to be eligible for the NHS provider licence that it issues. The regulator monitors the continuing performance of licensed providers to make sure the required standards are being maintained and if it see signs that an NHS foundation trust may slip below the bar, Monitor can step in to help the trust avoid more serious problems and, if necessary, take formal steps to make sure problems are fixed.

Monitor advised it has also added a condition to the Trust’s licence so that, if sufficient progress is not made, further action could be taken. This includes changing the leadership team at the trust, if necessary.

In addition, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) advises the Trust is scheduled for a comprehensive inspection in 2016.

NHS England has also undertaken an external investigation of the project and the report of the investigation does not identify any deaths occurring as a result of this project. The report was published by NHS England on 5 November 2015 and is attached.

As such, the Government therefore has no plans at this stage to set up a public inquiry.

The Government is committed to driving up the quality of investigations in the National Health Service in order to reduce the need for expensive and lengthy public inquiries in the future. In July the Secretary of State announced the Government’s decision to establish a new independent patient safety investigation service to be launched in April 2016. The new body will offer support and guidance to health and care provider organisations on investigations into serious patient safety incidents, and carry out certain investigations itself.

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