Staff morale still poor at 'troubled' ambulance service

East of England Ambulance Service

Essex County Council heard that the "troubled" East of England Ambulance Service Trust hopes to leave special measures next year - Credit: Jacob Savill

Staff morale at Essex's ambulance service is still "poor", two years after it was placed in special measures over a high number of bullying and harassment reports.

East of England Ambulance Service boss Tom Abell told Essex County Council today (January 6) that the NHS trust had closed half of its 170 employee relations grievances so far.

He expects the remainder to be closed within three months.

Appearing before the council's Health Overview Policy and Scrutiny Committee, Mr Abell said he hoped the trust would be out of special measures next year.

East of England Amubulance Service Trust was put into special measures in September 2020 after a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection found senior leaders failed to respond appropriately to instances of bullying and harassment.

Mr Abell said at the meeting: "This organisation is one which has been troubled for some time, both in terms of its response times, in terms of meeting the needs of our communities, but also in terms of the number of cultural issues that have been exposed through CQC reports."

Mr Abell was appointed to the top post in August 2021.

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He told ECC that 80% of the CQC's recommendations have now been completed.

The trust is working on its special measures exit criteria.

According to its report to ECC, the trust has seen a 900% increase in the number of contacts to the Freedom to Speak Up service compared to last year.

Freedom to Speak Up is a national initiative aimed at helping healthcare employees report the issues they face at work.

The trust was also forced to sign a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in April 2021 due to high levels of sexual harassment, according to the BBC.

An Ofsted report from July then found that a "significant minority" of apprentice at the trust experienced "inappropriate behaviour".

Mr Abell said that recruitment at the trust has been "complicated" by its issues with Ofsted.

He added that Category 1 response times - for the most life-threatening emergencies - had improved over Christmas and the New Year.