EXTERNAL challenges such as ambulances queuing for hours and handover delays at hospitals affected people's care and wellbeing, inspectors found.

West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust has been downgraded from outstanding to good following a recent inspection.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated the trust good overall from the inspection it carried out in August and October last year. 

The inspection looked at two core services, mainly the urgent and emergency care service and the emergency operations centre (EOC) service, as well as how well-led the trust was overall.

As well as the trust’s overall rating changed from outstanding to good so have the ratings for being effective, responsive and well-led.

It has again been rated good for being safe but was re-rated outstanding for being caring. 

Trust chief executive Anthony Marsh said: “The overall rating has dropped from Outstanding to Good, which is disappointing given how hard our staff work every single day, but we are delighted that the inspectors continue to believe that the caring domain remains outstanding.

“In addition, the inspectors have now rated our Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) as outstanding; the only one in the country.

"As the report notes, we have the best call answering in the country and treat more patients over the phone than any other Trust. 

“However, the biggest change the inspectors noted was in our effectiveness, which has dropped from outstanding to requires improvement.

“While it is pleasing that the CQC noted the progress that we have made, we absolutely accept that there is further work to be done."

Mr Marsh stressed the trust was "determined" to make necessary changes to ensure it moved back to outstanding overall when it was next inspected.

CQC deputy director of operations in the midlands, Charlotte Rudge, said: “When we inspected West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust, we found leaders had the skills, knowledge and experience to run services well.

"However, external challenges across the healthcare system meant that ambulances were queuing for hours at accident and emergency departments due to handover delays at hospitals, which impacted on people’s care and wellbeing.  

“This resulted in longer response times for people calling an ambulance, it also had a negative effect on staff, who were doing their best to provide safe care and treatment to people.

“We found the trust was working hard to improve its culture, so people using the service, their families and staff could raise concerns without fear. 

“In the trust’s two emergency operations centres, the service was the best in the country for answering 999 calls.

“We will continue to monitor the trust, including through future inspections, to ensure the necessary improvements are made so people are safe and can continue to receive a good standard of care.”