AN ambulance service which serves patients across Essex and beyond has been pulled out of special measures after four years, in what bosses have hailed as a "major milestone".

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) is no longer in special measures and will be removed from the Recovery Support Programme with immediate effect, NHS England has confirmed. 

The trust was placed in what was then called special measures by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following concerns about leadership, culture, and governance in 2020.

The report also said a number of referrals had been made about sexual misconduct, with 13 instances of staff members contacting the police with allegations and about predatory behaviour.

In July 2022, however, an updated CQC report praised the trust for making significant improvements on long-standing cultural issues and recognised the trust’s efforts to improve leadership, culture, and safety for staff.

After making changes, certain conditions which had been placed on the trust's licence were removed in February 2023.

For example, the trust was told it no longer needed to conduct monthly pre-employment checks, nor less frequent Disclosure and Barring Service checks for internal staff.

Three CQC conditions remain in place however, which bosses "hope" will be lifted soon.

Two conditions - that the trust must have effective processes in place for both staff concerns, grievances, and disciplinaries and to protect staff and patients from inappropriate behaviour including sexual harassment - require the "submission of evidence due to be uploaded". 

While data collection is "underway" for the remaining condition that the trust must implement an effective system to ensure the safety and effectiveness of subcontracted private ambulance services and their staff.

Gazette: Improved - Tom Abell Chief Executive of EAAST Improved - Tom Abell Chief Executive of EAAST (Image: EEAST)

In the latest upcoming report, CQC recognised the trust has expanded its safeguarding team, improved the way allegations are handles, and improved the training provided to managers for investigation allegations.  

The trust was further recognised for its work in improving the visibility of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian - where patients give feedback and raise concerns. 

Tom Abell, trust boss, said: “This is a major milestone for EEAST, and it’s all down to the hard work and commitment of our people.

“We have made much progress since I joined the trust over two years ago. When I joined, I made clear it would take time to tackle longstanding cultural and organisational issues.

“Although we have made good progress, we know there is still work to do to provide consistently excellent service to our communities.” 

Covering Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, EEAST is one of ten ambulance trusts in England.

It provides emergency medical services to a population of about six million people over 7,500 square miles.