The East of England Ambulance Service has been told it must continue to improve amid “unacceptable” patient waiting times.

The service, which covers a number of areas including Hertfordshire, has been rated as 'requires improvement' in a report by the Care Quality Commission following an inspection undertaken in April and May.

Inspectors stated not enough had been done to address the culture of bullying at the NHS-ran trust which promotes a “culture of uncertainty” due to a constantly changing leadership structure.

But the ambulance service’s chief executive Tom Abell said “significant” progress has been made to tackle bullying and he was pleased the “hard work” of staff was recognised in the report.

The trust entered the Recovery Support Programme in 2020 due to the care watchdog’s concerns surrounding its leadership and safeguarding measures.

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Chief executive - Tom AbellChief executive - Tom Abell

The report stated although its rating remains the same following the latest inspection, improvements have been made and was praised for scoring good in its caring rating.

Inspectors found senior leaders understood the issues facing the trust but stated more action is needed to address them.

They also found staff knew how to protect patients from abuse, but uptake of safeguarding training remained low.

The report adds: “People couldn’t always access the service when they needed it, and they didn’t always receive care in a timely way.

“Due to extreme pressures to the urgent and emergency care system, some patients were delayed in accessing the hospital from the ambulance.”

The inspection also found staff worked effectively as a team to provide safe, kind and compassionate care to patients.

St Albans & Harpenden Review: The East of England ambulance service serves hospitals across the East of England including Watford GeneralThe East of England ambulance service serves hospitals across the East of England including Watford General

Zoe Robinson, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said “there is still work to do” following the report.

“Staff shortages remained and patient waiting times were unacceptable,” she added. “Also, the time it took ambulances to reach people was well below national standards.

“These issues increased the risk to which people were exposed. We also found staff didn’t always feel respected, supported or valued.”

Mr Abell said bosses at the service have taken feedback “very seriously” and are continuing to work hard.

He said: “I am pleased the CQC has recognised the hard work of our people under significant pressure.

“We have focused on providing our people with a safe and supportive workplace and there are early indicators this is beginning to have a positive impact.”