Spare a thought for LAS – the forgotten emergency service


LAS control centre in Waterloo

LAS control centre in Waterloo


With all the sweeping charges in the NHS in London now upon us, spare a thought for the London Ambulance Service (LAS) which after the Met deals with the most emergency 999 calls in London if not the country with over a 1.5 million annually.

The LAS has an annual budget £283 million employing about 5,000 people. As a result of the Nicholson challenge it needs to make a saving of 53 million pounds over five years. That is a 19 per cent reduction by 2015/16 compared to 2011/12 with as a result plans now to cut 890 jobs over five years including 560 frontline jobs. This at a time when it dealt with 1.6 million calls in 2011 with calls rising annually by 3 per cent annually and urgent calls rising fastest at 14 per cent in 2012.

Furthermore we have a situation where potentially  London could lose up to 8 A&E departments out of 31 across Greater London. In this scenario people are expecting the LAS to pick up the slack, but with even fewer trained staff to do this they simply don’t have the capacity to do it and its only going to get worse. Compounding this situation is our growing and ageing population will undoubtedly put increasing pressure on A&E waiting times, as London’s population races from 8.17m now to 9m by 2020.

If we lose A&E departments we need more ambulances, not fewer. As ambulances are often the first point of contact for emergency patients, A&E department closures will impact on the LAS workload, with fewer A&E departments clearing meaning longer journey times to reach hospital and thus increases to both blue light journeys and non emergency trips. And fewer paramedics mean longer response times for an ambulance to reach the emergency. Not surprisingly in January 2013 the Care Quality Commission reported that the LAS has dangerously low levels of staff and sometimes ill-equipped vehicles.

No-one is appears to be looking at the combined impact of A&E closures and simultaneous ambulance cuts. Over the winter period already the LAS was given an extra £6m to help category A responses to reach 79% within 8 minutes in January when the target is 75 per cent. So London’s emergency patients are being squeezed in a pincer movement of healthcare cuts and lives could be put at risk. The warming signs already there for all to note, so lets not forget the LAS when saving London’s emergency services.

 A fulerl version of this blog has been printed in this week Forum column in the West End Extra









5 thoughts on “Spare a thought for LAS – the forgotten emergency service

  1. Aka Fred!

    To compound the issue the LAS is no longer permitted to train its own paramedics as it has been deemed essential that all are university educated and also the role of Emergency Medical Technician has been ceased so these cannot be trained either. The upshot of this is a university programme that is failing to keep up with demand for us highly skilled paramedics and so the pressure is placed more and more onto the front line staff who are getting increasingly frustrated. Latest figures show that the service is losing 10 medics a month on average, the moral is at an all time low and our 1% pay increase amounts to a 4% pay cut in real terms when inflation is taken into account. We work 90 to 95% of our 12 hour shifts with no break and are expected to be ready for the next call within 14.5 minutes of completing the previous! In short, things are dire. We do the most humane of jobs and are treated quite inhumanely by our employer due to the massive pressures on the service. Finally, to top it all we now have a new CEO whose remit is to gain Foundation Trust status for the service which allows it to be privatised, thus opening up our jobs and pensions for attack by unscroupulous private firms who’s sole purpose is to profiteer from others ill health at the expense of rising costs to the end user and notably staff welfare. Yours sincerely , a dejected Paramedic in London!

  2. 999Joe

    That is why I quit. What was once a great job is now unsustainable. People are being worked into the ground for little reward, certainly no gratitude from the higher management. Then when things do go wrong, it seems to be the medics on the front line who get all the flack.
    Such a pity.

  3. Stephen Sampford

    This is your reward for ‘Partnership Working’ and comes on top of over 10 years of effiency savings, making frontline staff work harder and harder for less and less. Everybody, including trade unions, have happily given away hard won pay an conditions of service for a promise of so called ‘professionalism’ and great rewards in the future. The people who championed Partnership Working will not be held to account but instead will slip away like theives in the night.

    Your only reward now will be Foundation Trust status; which has never been met with the unequivocal condemnation it deserved right from its first suggestion from trade unions. It is the vehicle upon which final privatisation will be delivered to to you, with yet further corners cut in service delivery; more life’s put at risk and more costs to the tax payers. It is, quite simply, the coffin lid to a once fine and honourable public service and what is to follow a very pale and inadequate imitation.

  4. Simon Says

    Does anyone in Gov really care about such matters, is it all just part of a bigger plan?
    Look at the total demise of the East of England Ambulance Service, currently in a state of collapse – read the shocking stories here:

    And they FINE the service for not being able to meet their own inflated targets due to insufficient resources – how on earth can you take more money away in a punitive manner as a response to an under-resourced service?
    Those in power cannot be the idiots they appear to be…..they are senior business minded people with decades of experience, so surely this is an orchestrated deconstruction of public services right in front of our eyes.

    Unless of course they really ARE utter morons who could ‘forget to check’ where £23 MILLION was hidden in the books…read here and be amazed:

    not withstanding this was the same CEO who installed the private financial structure that sent another trust bust:

    Put it all together with Fred’s comments regarding the imminent time bomb regarding staff (the same bomb that’s already gone off in the East of England), and London is truly buggered.

    When Londoners start seeing 2 to 3 hour waits for ambos, and people will die as a result, who will they blame? The LAS of course. And rightly so if as an organisation they sell the service up the swanny with someone of a dubious track record in finance at the helm. (assuming the BBC, and Croydon Today, and Croydon’s previous Director of Public Health facts are straight).

    Where are the unions in all this?

    Where is the concerted effort of all parties able to vote against Foundation Trust scuppering the master plan? Foundation Trust is supposed to be patient led – by the time the patient’s realise what’s happened to their service it will be too late, and those at the top will just say it’s not their fault, after all, they’ve done it before and got away with it:

    Come on Unison – Organise yourselves and take down this foundation trust application!


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