Cheltenham private ambulance service criticised by watchdog
HEALTH watchdogs have warned patients using a private ambulance service in Cheltenham are being put at risk.
Rowan Medical Services, based in Alstone Lane, Rowanfield, has been accused of failing to meet standards by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
It was brought in to investigate after complaints by staff at NHS Gloucestershire about the quality of conditions in the vehicles.
CQC has now ordered Rowan Medical Services to take immediate action to improve its cleanliness and infection control, medicine storage, equipment safety, record keeping, and logging of the service history of its vehicles.
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But Ken Griffiths, who runs the private service, insisted that patients were safe after using his company. He added: "Patients have never been in danger."
Rowan Medical Services operates a fleet of specially adapted vehicles. Its fleet includes four wheel drive ambulances, road ambulances and medical cars.
Private hospitals, nursing homes, care homes and GPs in the county all use the firm.
NHS Gloucestershire does not currently work with Rowan Medical Services.
Inspectors found that patients cared for by Rowan "were not protected from the risk of infection because appropriate guidance had not been followed".
The report said: "There were not effective systems in place to reduce the risk and spread of infection. The provider told us that the ambulances were cleaned before use and again afterwards. We saw no evidence of cleaning schedules."
Rowan failed to safely store medicines, the inspectors found. The report said: "One of the medicines was a prescription only medicine. There was no record of the contents of this box or the expiry dates of the medicines."
Inspectors also found that "the provider had no systems in place to make sure equipment was serviced and maintained according to the manufacturers' recommendations".
During the inspection, a blood glucose machine with flat batteries and a medical gas bottle that expired in August 2003 were discovered in an ambulance.
"No checklists were present to confirm each ambulance had the required equipment before being dispatched to an event. The provider told us that these checklists were in his head," the report added.
CQC found that Rowan did not keep accurate medical records. It added: "There were no checklists in place for the vehicles or equipment."