WEST Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) NHS Trust has become the first in the country to be rated as outstanding following an inspection last year.

Health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an inspection of WMAS last summer, and gave the rating in its report published earlier today.

Inspectors looked at all aspects of how the trust operated, including emergency care and patient transport.

Among inspectors findings were that staff were "outstanding in the way that they supported patients". The report also outlined that the "hard work of staff is exemplary and making a real difference to patients."

Anthony Marsh, WMAS chief executive, said: "I am incredibly proud of my staff and the volunteers who support us, for providing the best possible care to patients.

"Helping others is at the heart of everything we do and I am hugely pleased that the CQC saw a positive, patient centred culture within the trust with hard working staff proud to work here and making a real difference to patients' lives.

"The report highlighted staff were outstanding in the way they support people who are distressed or overwhelmed in stressful situations.

"Quality and safety are key priorities for us - they are essential for running an effective ambulance service and I'm pleased that this was highlighted by the CQC.

"I am delighted that they also recognised that we are at the forefront of making improvements in dealing with the ever-increasing number of emergency calls we receive by recruiting hundreds of paramedics, the introduction of new vehicles and trialling innovative ways to minimise the time patients must wait.

"I accept the comments in the report relating to improvements required in patient transport services. We have already implemented a number of improvements since the inspection and will continue to make further improvements so that we can improve their rating.

"We will continue to do everything possible to raise our standards further. I would like to thank all of our staff and volunteers for their outstanding professionalism."

WMAS chairman, Sir Graham Meldrum, added: "This is an excellent start to 2017.

"The CQC report shows that patients are receiving the highest standard of care and compassion from our staff as well as providing appropriate care in the right place and at the right time."

The CQC's chief inspector of hospitals, professor Sir Mike Richards, said: "As demand for emergency care grows year by year, our ambulance services have never been busier.

"I know the trust is at the forefront of national improvements in the ambulance service, exploring better ways to deal with emergency calls so that people get appropriate care in the right place at the right time."