AMBULANCE service bosses say improvements to the region's under-pressure service are already under way after it was criticised by health inspectors.

A quality report on the North West Ambulance Service was published yesterday following an inspection by government health watchdog the Care Quality Commission in May.

It was found to "require improvement" overall though it was judged to be good in the categories of caring, responsiveness and effectiveness.

NWAS chief executive, Derek Cartright, has issued an assurance that issues raised within the report are being addressed robustly to ensure patients receive a high-quality service.

Mr Cartright said: "We accept the comments in the report relating to improvements required for procedures, guidelines and training. However the inspection took place almost 10 months ago and the majority of the points highlighted have already been addressed.

"For the remainder, we are working to a robust action plan which is being monitored by the executive team and our commissioners."

NWAS provides emergency ambulances in Cumbria as well as the 999 calls service and the area's 111 NHS advice line.

Concerns raised by the inspectors within their report include a high number of vacant paramedic posts in Cumbria, the timeliness of investigations into complaints and staff training around mental capacity assessments.

Mr Cartright added: "As an organisation which has patients at the heart of all we do, I was extremely pleased to hear that the CQC believes our staff to be caring and compassionate and that we regard safety and quality as a priority.

"Our staff work hard every day to do the very best they can for patients – from saving lives to offering comfort to relatives, and they should be very proud that this has been recognised."

Jeff Gorman, North West Ambulance Service branch secretary for union Unison, said the issue of too few staff was one that was repeated at other ambulance trusts nationwide.

He said: "The pressures of the job are never-ending, having to respond to emergency calls one after the other without a break.

"It's no wonder many experienced ambulance staff have left for better paid, less stressful jobs.

"Managers at the service are trying their best to fill staffing gaps, but without a proper injection of NHS funding from the government and a review of how paramedics are trained, this will be an uphill battle.

"There simply aren't enough new recruits coming through the system."