London Ambulance Service being put into ‘special measures’ over response time failures

Responding to ambulance 999 calls

Responding to ambulance 999 calls - Credit: Archant

The Ambulance Service in London has been recommended to go into ‘special measures’ for failures including reaching its target for responding to calls within eight minutes. The service that had been persistently the best in the country until last year was now falling short of the target in three-out-of-four call-outs.

Responding to ambulance 999 calls

Responding to ambulance 999 calls - Credit: Archant

Ambulances across London are only arriving within eight minutes for 65 per cent of the time, rather than the 75pc target, the Care Quality Commission has found.

But east London’s paramedics at the Poplar ambulance station in Stepney are persistently better than most areas and quicker than the London average by a clear margin.

They hit 70 per cent call-outs within time in August, according to latest statistics for Tower Hamlets, 71pc in June, 73pc in May and 70pc in April.

The Commission’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, has rated the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust “inadequate” after his inspectors found improvements were needed on safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and even leadership.

Responding to ambulance 999 calls

Responding to ambulance 999 calls - Credit: Archant

“I am recommending the Ambulance Service be placed into ‘special measures’ necessary to ensure this vital service to 8.6 million Londoners gets the support it needs to improve,” Sir Mike said.

“The Trust has been performing poorly on response times since March last year.

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“This is a serious problem, which the trust clearly isn’t able to address alone and which needs action to put right.”

The Commission has rated the service “good” for caring, after inspectors looking at the trust’s emergency operations centres, care service and patient transport found staff were dedicated, hardworking and compassionate.

“But they were not being properly supported to do their jobs,” Prof Richards warned.

“Some reported a culture of harassment and bullying and in many cases there just weren’t enough properly trained staff or that proper equipment wasn’t available.”

Inspectors visited 16 ambulance stations and emergency operations centres. They spoke to 110 staff as well as emergency volunteers, patients and relatives.

Patients were treated with compassion, dignity and respect by staff often in difficult and distressing situations, they found.

But staff were working long hours and many were stressed, fatigued and demoralised.

There was an “issue with bullying and harassment” and perceived discrimination which had not been dealt with.

The London Ambulance trust was consistently the best-performing service in the country until March, 2014, in responding to 999 calls.

But there had been a decline since, with target times not being met.

‘Special measures’ means the ambulance service now gets additional resources and support “to provide London with some reassurance”.