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London Ambulance Service

London Ambulance performance on life threatening calls falls sharply in run up to Olympics

PERFORMANCE: London Ambulance Service’s response to life threatening calls has fallen dramatically following the introduction of a new software system, with just weeks to go until the capital hosts the 2012 Olympic Games.

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New figures from the Department of Health show just 71.9 per cent of Category A calls were responded to within eight minutes during April, against a target of 75 per cent.

LAS was the only English ambulance trust not to meet the target of responding to calls in response to potentially life threatening situations during the month.

At the end of March the service finally introduced its new call handling system CommandPoint. This came nine months after the first switchover attempt failed leaving control room staff relying on pen and paper for about 15 hours and just 2 per cent of category A patients receiving a response within eight minutes.

An independent report criticised LAS for failing to prepare adequately for the switchover and as a result the trust ran a series of “go-live” tests during February and March.

A spokesman said a drop in performance of around five per cent had been predicted during the first six weeks of the new system, the introduction of which also coincided with an unexplained increase in Category A demand.

Figures from the DH show the number of calls requiring a category A response within London increased by 18 per cent in April 2012 , up from 30,258 during April 2011.

The spokesman said: “We never anticipated achieving 75 per cent in April and had prior agreement from our commissioners that we would not expect to reach this figure.

“The new system is now familiar to all control room staff and demand has returned to more or less predicted levels, with a corresponding increase in performance.”

The trust met the category A target for the ninth year in a row during 2011-12. It also increased the proportion of calls managed without transporting the patient to accident and emergency from 26.3 per cent in April 2011 to 30.4 per cent in April 2012.

Readers' comments (2)

  • This is not fair coverage. Firstly, it's well known that performance suffers when systems are changed. Secondly, this is one month's performance: the month following the switchover. And the standards are measured in aggregate, over a year. It's also material that activity has increased so hugely and that was tucked away near the end of the article.

    It's always disappointing when the HSJ resorts to tabloid journalism. You're supposed to be specialists. You're supposed to know what you're talking about.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I hope after the much-needed departure of the chief executive after the Olympics the clean out of incompetent management at LAS will continue with earnest. Londoners have to put up with a completely raw deal because of these wombles. The introduction of this new dispatch system has been an absolute farce from day one; from the amount of money being spent on it, to the deeply flawed implementation last summer. When I studied systems development the 1990's introduction of a new dispatch system was used to demonstrate the worst possible practices when introducing a new piece of software-imagine how my jaw struck the floor when history repeated itself last summer- in the same organisation in a relatively short space of time!

    If their performance gets any better and/or they make FT status with this senior management team still in place then I'll eat my hat (don't worry I'll take myself to A&E thanks very much....)

    Should say that I have absolute respect for the hard work of the paramedics and front-line staff and have no doubt that they do an exemplary job despite being mismanaged horribly by the aforementioned.

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