An NHS trust has had its apprenticeship contract terminated after Ofsted found serious safety concerns.

Nearly 700 apprentices are currently being moved to alternative providers to complete their training after the East Of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust was slammed by the inspectorate.

In a safeguarding monitoring report, published today, inspectors said a “significant minority” of apprentices experience “inappropriate behaviour” which has led to some staff being sacked.

Managers were criticised for not encouraging apprentices to discuss “low level concerns” that arise, for failing for investigate training centre reports that claim there are no safeguarding concerns, and for being “too slow” to make changes to improve apprentices’ safety.

Ofsted does not detail the specific “inappropriate behaviour” experienced by apprentices.

At the time of the visit a total of 661 apprentices were studying on level 3 and level 4 standards-based apprenticeships at the ambulance service.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency stepped in after Ofsted’s visit to terminate the trust’s apprenticeship contract.

Tom Davis, interim chief executive of East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, 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.”

He added that the trust has now 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”.

 

‘Managers have an overly optimistic view of the issues that still exist’

Ofsted’s report said leaders and managers do not ask apprentices specific questions about colleagues’ behaviour in the workplace.

“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,” it added.

“Managers fail to investigate centre reports that state that there are no safeguarding concerns. Managers are too accepting of these returns, given the history of issues within the service.”

The report continued: “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.”

Inspectors did praise leaders for “clearly promoting the high professional standards they expect staff to adhere to”.

Leaders also “fully support managers to establish the culture change needed within the service” and they take “swift action when concerns are raised about a staff member” which includes “removing staff from their post”.

Additionally, leaders have instigated a “broad range of targeted services to support apprentices’ psychological and social well-being”, which includes “a ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ Guardian”.

The trust has also “significantly” increased the number of staff in the safeguarding team.