Almost 700 apprentices face uncertainty after Ambulance trust banned by Ofsted over “inappropriate behaviour”
Almost 700 apprentices at the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) face an uncertain future after Ofsted removed the trust as a registered provider because of “inappropriate behaviour.”
Ofsted carried out an inspection of the EEAST in June after safeguarding concerns and the report, published this week, has come down hard on the trust.
The findings have led the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to withdraw funding for the trust’s level 3 and 4 apprenticeship learning. This means that the trust can continue to employ apprentices but their education provision will have to be transferred to another provider.
The decision affects those employed through an Apprentice Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) or Apprentice Emergency Care Support Worker course, who have been assured they will still be able to complete their clinical placements at EEAST.
This has still left many apprentices in limbo and looking for a new provider. When Ofsted carried out the report, there were 661 apprentices studying on level 3 and 4 apprenticeships at EEAST.
In September 2020, the trust was placed into special measures after a report from The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found evidence of abuse and bullying. It concluded that: “Some leaders adopted a combative approach which deterred staff from speaking out. This fuelled a negative culture, where bullying was normalised, and put patient and staff safety at risk.”
The latest Ofsted found that leaders had been too slow to make changes to improve the safety of their apprentices and even though the number of staff in the safeguarding team has significantly increased, this has not yet stopped inappropriate behaviour that a significant minority of apprentices still experience.
It states: “Managers’ questioning of apprentices, related to safeguarding, is too general. Leaders and managers do not ask apprentices specific questions about colleagues’ behaviours in the workplace. They do not encourage apprentices to discuss low level concerns that arise. Leaders rely too much on service-wide surveys to gain relevant information. As a result, managers have an overly optimistic view of the issues that still exist in the service.
“Leaders do not have a robust action plan to ensure that compliance with their new safeguarding arrangements improves rapidly. They do not act quickly enough to ensure that staff update their safeguarding knowledge in a timely way. Leaders do not identify which apprentices still need to complete safeguarding training.”
The report does, however, praise the trust for promoting high professional standards and taking swift action when concerns are raised, including removing staff from their post when necessary and putting in place a range of targeted services to support apprentices’ psychological and social well-being, including a ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ Guardian.
Dr Tom Davis, Interim CEO of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), said: “We’re working closely with partners to make sure the transition to a new learning provider is as seamless as possible for our apprenticeship students and are determined to make improvements so that these learners feel well supported while they continue their clinical placements with us.
“We want every staff member to have a positive experience of our organisation. We’ve since put further changes in place to strengthen our safeguarding training and student support, and will be undertaking a detailed review of our education and training provision so that we can improve student experience now and in the future.”