Health report reveals ‘bullying’ culture in London Ambulance Service

One person was treated for minor injuries after the crash between a bus and a car outside Upton Park

One person was treated for minor injuries after the crash between a bus and a car outside Upton Park station - Credit: Archant

A damning report by health inspectors has revealed a culture of “harassment and bullying” in London’s Ambulance Service and called for it to be placed into special measures.

England’s chief inspector of hospitals, professor Sir Mike Richards made the recommendation following a three-week inspection by the Care Quality Commission in June.

It comes off the back of repeatedly poor response times across the capital, including in Barking and Dagenham. The latest figures for the borough show response times have fallen below the 75 per cent target of calls being responded to within eight minutes since March.

Professor Richards said in his report that ambulance service staff were “overwhelmingly dedicated, hardworking and compassionate” but that they were not being “properly supported to do their jobs”.

He said: “Some [staff] reported a culture of harassment and bullying and we found that in many cases, there just weren’t enough properly trained staff, or that the proper equipment wasn’t available to them.”

He added: “I am recommending that London Ambulance Service (LAS) be placed into special measures because I believe that this is the step necessary to ensure that this vital service – which provides emergency medical services to 8.6 million Londoners – gets the services it needs to improve.”

LAS is the first ambulance trust to be placed in to special measures despite being considered the best-performing service in the country until March last year.

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Inspectors visited 16 ambulance stations, emergency operations centres and other bases, speaking with 110 staff and 45 patients and relatives to compile the report. They identified improvements to be made in several areas including safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership.

Frontline staff were rated “good” for caring services despite a high number of vacancies. According to the report, crew members said there were not enough appropriately trained staff to “ensure that patients were consistently safe and received the right level of care”.

It was also noted that staff were working long hours and that many reported high levels of stress and fatigue, with a large number left feeling “demoralised” on the frontline.

The CQC will present its findings, including key actions to be taken, to health providers, regulators and other public bodies on Wednesday, December 2.

Special measures are applied to NHS trusts where there are concerns that existing leadership cannot make the necessary improvements in the time required without support.