An NHS ambulance trust has been taken out of special measures after almost three years.
The Care Quality Commission has given South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (Secamb) a “good” overall rating.
The trust, which covers Kent, Sussex, Surrey and north east Hampshire, was rated “inadequate” in 2017 and then “requires improvement” in 2018.
Secamb said it had made “significant improvements”, but more could be done.
The health watchdog rated Secamb’s emergency and urgent care “outstanding”, including work to reduce hospital handover times and improve services for mental health patients, with staff receiving particular praise.
CQC inspectors who visited Secamb in June and July said the trust provided safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led services.
The inspectors said staff “offered emotional support and treated people with compassion and kindness”.
“Some patients told us staff often went the extra mile in proving excellent care,” they added.
Inspectors said Secamb’s out-of-hours and NHS 111 service delivered “effective care and treatment”.
“Patients were supported and empowered to manage their own health,” they said.
The trust has acknowledged at times of high demand lower priority patients “can sometimes wait longer than they should”.
“Recent weeks have seen an improvement in the trust’s response times to these patients and it is committed to further improvements,” a Secamb spokesman said.
The CQC had previously reported a culture of bullying but said staff said now felt more confident to speak up about unacceptable behaviour.
“Staff told inspectors they felt engaged and were confident their views and feedback were valued and acted upon,” the CQC said.
Secamb’s acting chief executive, Dr Fionna Moore, said: “I am very aware that there remains work to be done to ensure we meet the high standards rightly expected.
“I am, however, very confident that we are on the right path to deliver further progress.”