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Care Quality Commission (CQC)

Essex & Herts Air Ambulance has been rated as outstanding overall, and for being safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs, and well-led.

Essex & Herts
Air Ambulance
CQC Report

12th October 2022

We are delighted to announce the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) as ‘outstanding’ overall. We have also been rated outstanding across all five key areas: safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs and well-led. The result is a significant achievement for the charity and a testament to the high quality of care and services provided to our patients and the communities we care for.

Inspectors found outstanding levels of care with exemplary teamwork in place to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients and their families. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing that our team went the extra mile for them and exceeded their expectations. This achievement is a testament to the skill and commitment of our people who uphold such high standards and continue delivering a first-class service to the people of Essex and Hertfordshire.

Crew getting ready to go in the AW169 for a mission from North Weald Airbase

“Leaders and teams used systems to manage performance effectively, proactively identifying and escalating relevant risks and issues to reduce their impact. They had plans to cope with unexpected events.” – CQC

  • Staff demonstrated a proactive approach to anticipating and managing risks to people who used services, which was recognised as the responsibility of all staff. The team also identified and quickly acted upon patients at risk of deterioration.
  • With the right qualifications, skills, training and experience in place, the critical care team kept patients safe from avoidable harm and provided the right care and treatment. Managers regularly reviewed and adjusted staffing levels and skill mix, and gave staff a full induction.
  • There were clearly defined systems and processes to safely prescribe, administer, record and store medicines to safeguard people from abuse. With high standards of training, staff understood how to recognise and report abuse.
  • The design, maintenance and use of facilities, premises, vehicles and equipment was innovative, helping to keep people safe.
  • The team kept detailed, up-to-date records of patients’ care and treatment. Patient data was stored securely and readily available to all staff providing care.
  • Staff felt respected, supported, valued and focused on the needs of patients receiving care.

“Leaders operated effective governance processes throughout the service and with partner organisations. Staff at all levels were clear about their roles and accountabilities and had regular opportunities to meet, discuss and learn from the performance of the service.” – CQC

  • The strategy was fully aligned with plans in the wider health economy, and the service demonstrated commitment to system-wide collaboration and leadership through ongoing stakeholder engagement. All staff were committed to providing integrated emergency services across the region.
  • Staff proactively monitored the effectiveness of care and treatment. They used the findings to make improvements and achieved good outcomes for patients.
  • All staff were committed to continually learning and improving services. They understood quality improvement methods and possessed the skills to use them.
  • Staff supported patients in making informed decisions about their care and treatment. They followed national guidance to gain patients’ consent. They knew how to support patients who lacked the capacity to make their own decisions or were experiencing mental ill health. They used agreed personalised measures that limit patients’ liberty.

“Patients and relatives said staff treated them well and with kindness. The patients we spoke with told us they didn’t recall much of their care due to the nature of their injuries, however, one said they recalled the crew being ‘very kind’.” – CQC

  • Feedback from people who used the service, those close to them and stakeholders was continually positive about how staff treated people, going the extra mile to provide care that exceeded their expectations.
  • The two patients and three relatives the CQC spoke to were overwhelmingly positive about the care they or their loved ones received. When talking about how the crew looked after them, one patient told us, “they are truly amazing”.
  • The patient and family liaison team (PFLT) provided support and guidance to patients and their families, if they wanted to, as part of an aftercare service and in the community. EHAAT’s patient and family liaison team offer support, not only in the short term but for as long as it is required for patients and their families.
  • Volunteers we spoke with described working for “a big family” and felt part of a big team committed to offering life-saving care. Volunteers felt valued and respected by all staff. Staff at EHAAT’s North Weald airbase told us the changes in the physical environment had brought the clinical and fundraising team together, so they felt more included in the service than ever before.

“Staff were discreet and responsive when caring for patients. There was a strong, visible person-centred culture. The individuals we spoke with were highly motivated and inspired to offer care that was kind and promoted people’s dignity.”- CQC

  • The service had two response crews and these crews did staggered shifts so that there was always a crew ready to respond. This also allowed the crews handing over to not feel pressured to finish in case a call came in while they were handing over.
  • People’s emotional and social needs were highly valued by staff and embedded in their care and treatment. EHAAT provided emotional support to patients, families and carers to minimise their distress.
  • It was easy for people to give feedback and raise concerns about the care received. The service treated concerns and complaints seriously, investigated them and shared lessons learned with all staff, including those in partner organisations.
  • Staff told us they worked collaboratively to understand and meet the range and complexity of people’s needs.
  • The service promoted equality and diversity in daily work and provided opportunities for career development. There was an open culture where patients, their families and staff could raise concerns without fear.

“Leaders were passionate about their roles and executed them with care and commitment to their staff. All staff could identify the different leads along with their roles and responsibilities. There was a visibly supportive and positive working relationship with the leadership.” – CQC

  • The service had a leadership structure with clearly defined roles and responsibilities at all levels. The chief executive officer (CEO) led the service and reported to a board of trustees. All staff we spoke with told us the CEO was very visible, highly committed to the charity’s aims and mission, and approachable to all.
  • The vision and strategy were focused on the sustainability of services and aligned to local plans within the wider health economy. Leaders and staff understood and knew how to apply them and monitor progress.
  • EHAAT’s vision and mission statement were underpinned by its values which included passionate, trustworthy, professional, dedicated, innovative and inclusive.
  • The leadership team proactively reviewed and operated an effective governance process throughout the service and took a systematic approach to work with other organisations to improve care outcomes. Leaders also encouraged innovation and participation in research.
  • Staff were clear about their roles and understood what they were accountable for. There were also regular updates to standard operating procedures, and any changes were effectively communicated to staff.
Clinical tanning day for Doctors and Paramedics

How was the inspection carried out?

The CQC’s comprehensive inspection methodology inspected the five domains of safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led on 31st August 2022 at our Earls Colne airbase and 6th September 2022 at our North Weald airbase. The CQC spoke with staff, volunteers, two patients and three relatives, reviewed ten patient records, including medicines and documents in relation to the safe operation of the service, such as policies and procedures.

“We were very impressed to find such outstanding levels of care being provided by Essex & Herts Air Ambulance. The level of teamwork at the service was exemplary, and staff and managers worked together and supported one another to deliver the best possible outcomes for people.”

Zoe Robinson, CQC Head of Hospital Inspection