Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 13:56 UK

Ambulance service 'risked safety'

Staffordshire Ambulance Service has since merged with West Midlands

A former ambulance service jeopardised patient and staff safety to try to improve its performance, a health watchdog has said.

Staffordshire Ambulance Service also issued community first responders with drugs they were not legally allowed to have, the Healthcare Commission found.

The service has since merged with West Midlands Ambulance.

A spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said it had already "made massive strides to tackle the issues".

'Best intentions'

The 96-page report, which was started in 2006, added that Staffordshire had been a "good performer" when it came to responding to 999 calls.

However, inspectors found in the investigation, started in 2006, that safety had not been a priority.

They found that ambulance staff and volunteer community first responders were supplied with controlled drugs, such as the sedatives diazepam and midazolam, which they were not legally entitled to possess.

It was also discovered that medicines in the ambulance stations regularly went missing and that community first responders were allowed to drive at speed using blue lights and sirens without the necessary advanced driver training.

The Healthcare Commission's chief executive Anna Walker said that managers at the ambulance trust had been motivated by the best intentions.

'Accept findings'

However, she said some of the practices "put the safety of patients, volunteers and staff at risk".

She said: "Patients, staff and the public could have been seriously hurt as a result of the compromised safety culture.

"The trust sought to be innovative, and that is to be applauded, but it did not have effective systems in place to handle this innovation safely.

"This undermined many of the good achievements made on behalf of patients."

West Midlands Ambulance Service locality director Peter Murtagh said: "This is a very comprehensive report that has looked at the issues that came to light during 2006.

"We accept the findings and have already made massive strides to tackle the issues raised."

Shadow Health Minister, Mike Penning said the public expected safety to be a priority for ambulance services.

"This report raises some worrying concerns about patient safety and all ambulance trusts need to take it very seriously," he added.

video and audio news
The former chief executive speaks about the case

Ambulance staff action called off
21 Dec 07 |  Staffordshire
Midlands ambulance trusts merge
01 Oct 07 |  Staffordshire

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