The Great North Air Ambulance Service has been given the highest possible rating of ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following a recent inspection.
The CQC is an independent regulator of health and social care services in England which monitors, inspects and regulates services in every hospital, care home and healthcare provider, including air ambulance services, to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality.
Following an inspection, they provide organisations with one of four overall ratings, ranging from ‘inadequate’, ‘require improvement’, and ‘good’ to the highest achievement, which is ‘outstanding’.
The inspections aim to ensure that health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and encourage care services to improve.
During the inspection, the CQC found:
- The service had a major incident response plan that all staff could access. There were laminated action cards available to provide staff with advice about roles and responsibilities in the event of a major incident.
- The service had standard operating procedures for the treatment of specific illnesses and injuries, which ensured all staff had a clear process to follow.
- Leaders were visible and approachable. All staff we spoke to spoke of how they could always go to their managers or the senior management team to discuss concerns or talk about improvement projects.
- Managers investigated incidents and shared lessons learned with the whole team, the wider service and partner organisations.
- All staff we spoke with were extremely passionate about being open and honest, so they could identify learning and improve their quality of care.
- Leaders and staff actively and openly engaged with patients, staff, equality groups, the public and local organisations to plan and manage services.
GNAAS’ main service is providing life-saving care to the most severley ill and injured people in the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
They are a progressive organisation which has pioneered pre-hospital care in the region and they operate two helicopters 365 days a year and also operate a night-time service in the North East and Cumbria on rapid response vehicles.
Since registering as a charity in 2002, the service has responded more than 23,500 times across the region to different incidents, with road traffic collisions being the most frequent type of incident responded to by their critical care team.
The latest techniques, equipment and drugs are constantly being evaluated to ensure the charity can provide the best care possible for their patients, and this was evident during the latest CQC inspection.
Andy Mawson, director of operations at GNAAS, said: “As an independent regulator of healthcare in England the CQC is fundamental to our ways of working. Their inspections are highly detailed, rigorous and designed to ensure that organisations that provide medical care do so in a way that keeps patients safe, that cares, is able to respond to the varying needs of the community and has the correct governance and leadership functions in place.
“To have been awarded ‘Outstanding’ is a huge achievement. Whilst our teams responding by helicopter and rapid response vehicle are the most visible part of our service, and the care that we deliver the most important to our communities, there is a massive workload behind the scenes to make our service truly ‘Outstanding’.
“There is an incredible team of people that have made this happen. Every single member of our team has allowed us to achieve the highest rating of care. But it doesn’t end there.
“Every single person that has ever supported our cause has enabled this. From our lottery players to our corporate partners, our donors to our legacies, and our runners to our communities. This is your success, too, so we just want to say thank you and we will continue to make you proud.”
David Stockton, chief executive officer at GNAAS, added: “This is an incredible achievement in any healthcare environment, but in a complex air ambulance service, it is amazing.
“Credit has to go to the whole team in Operations, who have put an unbelievable effort into the submission for the CQC and the upholding of exacting standards. It is absolutely deserved and hard-earned, but it validates our teams’ incredible work every day.”
Sarah Dronsfield, CQC head of hospital inspection said: “When we inspected The Great North Air Ambulance, we were extremely impressed by the level of care and support people received when using this service. The charity is one of the first emergency services in the UK to use software that allows staff to access a mobile phone at the scene of an incident.
“The software allows the sharing of location and videos to enable staff to respond in real time and make informed decisions before deploying aircraft. We were also impressed by the service’s creation of a bag system that enabled staff to easily transport vital equipment, including monitoring systems and ventilators to remote areas in an emergency.
“The charity made sure that staff were well trained, sometimes in more than one role. For example, some staff were trained paramedics who were also competent clinical managers meaning the service had access to all levels of staff at short notice. The service delivered specialist training programmes including enhanced pre-hospital resuscitation and transfer training.
“There was a genuine culture of wanting to provide the best care for patients and a desire to improve services. Staff at all levels were passionate about the service provided and were proud to work for the charity.
“Leaders inspired shared purpose to deliver and motivated staff to succeed. The whole team deserve to be congratulated for all their hard work and commitment.”
The full inspection report can be found on the CQC website.