Mixed CQC report for Heathrow Air Ambulance

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England, has issued an inspection report on patient transport service Heathrow Air Ambulance. Part of the wider Roebuck Air Services Group, Heathrow Air Ambulance Service says its offering includes air ambulance, flight nursing and ground ambulance services.

In an introductory statement signed by Professor Edward Baker, chief inspector of hospitals, the CQC report lists positive findings as well as a number of areas where the provider ‘needs to improve’, which were identified through an unannounced inspection on 25 July and an unannounced visit on 7 August.

Among the issues reported by the CQC was general governance was ‘not robust and did not demonstrate a monitoring of the quality of the service’. The report also states: “The service did not have an effective system in place to identify, limit and control clinical and non-clinical risks. The manager was able to identify a limited number of risks; however, there was limited evidence to demonstrate that all risks had been identified.”

The regulator further reported that while there was a formal process for reporting patient incidents, the CQC ‘did not have assurance that Heathrow Air Ambulance was following its own policy for reporting, investigating and learning from incidents’.

The CQC also noted a lack of an appraisal process, resulting in staff having unmet training needs. However, the report adds: “We were, however, assured at the unannounced visit appraisals were in progress.”

Further issues listed include incomplete staff training records, and a lack of a robust medicines management system. The report continues: “However, during inspection the decision was made to remove all medicines, as these were not essential to the service provided.”

Among the areas of good practice described in the report are that staff were found to hold the manager in high regard, enjoyed working for the service and felt well supported. The service managed infection prevention and control well and followed its policies and procedures, and all vehicles were in good condition, well maintained and visibly clean and tidy. Medical gases were stored safely and securely, said the CQC, and equipment was maintained, clean and in good working order. Staff received mental capacity act training and showed awareness of consent issues, the service uses its vehicles and resources effectively to meet patients’ needs, and staff described a compassionate, empathetic and caring attitude towards patients, putting patient’s best interests at the heart of their work, said the CQC. In addition, staff were clear about how they would respect patient’s dignity, independence and privacy, and were found to be focused on providing person-centred care and enjoyed working for the company.

The CQC noted that Heathrow Air Ambulance has retained the same contracts with embassies and insurance companies for over 25 years. The regulator said that following this inspection, it told the organisation that it must take some actions to comply with the regulations.

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