THE North East Ambulance Service continues to make improvements following a damning Care Quality Commission report from February 2023.

An earlier report had criticised the service for some ambulances lacking certain medicines. It also found the service suffered from a culture in which staff felt they could not raise concerns.

However, Helen Ray, the chief executive of the North East Ambulance Service, spoke to councillors from across the region to report on improvements made in these areas.

A new licensing agreement from the Home Office now allows ambulance crews to access vital medicines from all ambulance stations, not just their own. Medicine stocks are now regularly audited to ensure consistency.

The trust has also made efforts to improve staff’s ability to speak up about problems they may encounter including tripling its ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ team. However, work remains to be done in this area, according to the chief executive.

Helen Ray said: “We have seen since we appointed an independent freedom to speak up lead, we have seen an increase in colleagues coming forward, and that is a good indicator.

“We don’t just wait for the annual staff survey, we actively try and encourage people to fill out a People Pulse survey so we can track change over time. We have some green shoots but I don’t think we are there yet.

“I do still get staff saying ‘I won’t speak up because I am worried about repercussions’, even though we can’t identify any incidents formally of anyone saying I spoke up and neither should we be able to. We need to continue to emphasise that.

“It’s really important for us to have that culture of safety where you’re staff are comfortable to say there is something wrong and they know you will do something about it”.

The ambulance service’s progress continues to be monitored by NHS England, the CQC, and the local Integrated Care Board.