Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS) has been rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) across all five of its inspection key lines of enquiry – a level only achieved by a very small proportion of the UK’s CQC-inspected healthcare organisations. It is the first Helicopter Emergency Medical Service to achieve this top rating in all categories/ key lines of enquiry.


Inspectors rated KSS, a registered charity, as outstanding for being safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led – the five key areas which form the framework of the inspection.  Whilst KSS has been registered since 2011 this is this first time the regulations have allowed the CQC to give a rating.


The CQC report highlights a wide range of outstanding practices at KSS including the service’s  ‘strong leadership’, ‘thoroughly patient focused team,’ ‘open culture to reporting all types of incidents,’ ‘highly motivated staff’ and ‘strong, comprehensive systems and processes.’


KSS’s collaboration with local, national and international partner organisations to help improve services to patients was also singled out. Inspectors praised KSS’s engagement with its partners such as local NHS trusts and the Ministry of Defence.


They also noted that the continuing development of staff skills, competence and knowledge was ‘integral to ensuring high quality care’. All staff were ‘actively involved in activities to monitor and improve quality and outcomes’ and there was a focus on ‘openness, transparency and learning.’


The inspectors were impressed by KSS’s continual focus on the ‘safe use of innovative and pioneering approaches to care.’ This included the service’s research into new methods of treatments and innovative ways to make patient information more easily available to all staff providing care in order to deliver more efficient and cohesive treatment and care of patients.


Commenting, David Welch, Chief Executive of KSS, said: “Receiving an outstanding rating from the CQC across the board is testament to the dedication and commitment of our exceptional team, who work tirelessly to ensure the right treatments and best possible outcomes for our patients. My sincere thanks go to every single member of Team KSS – staff, volunteers, partners and stakeholders – all of whom have contributed to this amazing achievement.”


“I am incredibly proud and privileged to lead our outstanding team who show an exceptional commitment to our patients and to supporting one another ‘the KSS Way’ with people at the heart of everything we do. Our health service is currently faced with an unprecedented challenge and we are exploring new ways that we can best deploy our experience, expertise and resources to support the NHS and the wider community at such a critical time.”


Dr Helen Bowcock, Chair of the Board of Trustees, added: “As a Board we congratulate our teams for receiving so many commendations including on our open and collaborative culture, our holistic approach to care and the cohesion throughout our organisation. We were honoured to receive a visit from HRH The Princess Royal in February to mark our 30th anniversary and now have the honour of being rated Outstanding by the CQC.”


Dr Nigel Acheson, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (London and South), said: “The service has a vision for what it wanted to achieve and a strategy to turn it into an action, developed with all relevant stakeholders. Feedback from people who use the service was continually positive about the way staff treat people; they thought that staff went the extra mile and the care they received exceeded their expectations.”


Philip Astle, CEO of South East Coast Ambulance Foundation Trust, said:  “I am incredibly proud to be a partner of KSS and the fact that the CQC have rated them so highly is absolutely no surprise to those of us who work closely with them.   They are a team full of people who strive for excellence, are innovative, enthusiastic and tireless in their search to improve patient care.  They are fantastic partners who always seek to maximise the effect of that partnership rather than seek organisational gain.”


Operating out of Redhill Aerodrome and headquartered in Rochester, KSS provides world-leading pre-hospital emergency care whenever and wherever required to save lives and to enable the best possible patient outcomes.  Covering Kent, Surrey and Sussex, KSS serves a population of 4.8 million plus those who travel through the area – one of the busiest in the UK.  Its crews of pilots, doctors and paramedics fly over 2,500 missions a year, and it was the first, and only, UK Air Ambulance to operate its helicopters 24/7.  Of the more than £14m needed to sustain the service each year, 89% is raised by public donation and fundraising.


The CQC is the independent regulator of all health and social services in England. The inspection was carried out at KSS’s Redhill Aerodrome premises in January 2020. A copy of the CQC report is available at


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