There is a bit of a kerfuffle in London at the moment about the failure of communication during the July 7th bombings. In November one of our top management people told the review committee that our radios “worked well”. This is being reported on as a misrepresentation. While I don’t have any ‘inside information’ I can tell you that the communication gear supplied to us is inadequate.
And it’s the government’s fault.
Currently our communication equipment is –
a) A VHF radio installed in each ambulance/RRU
b) An ‘emergency’ mobile phone.
c) Managers and other important people have pagers.
The pagers are, as I understand it, in direct response to the July bombings – our managers became unreachable after the mobile phone networks were ‘switched off’. We were quite lucky that a whole bunch of our managers were at a meeting in Milwall – and so large numbers of them could be contacted.
We used to have hand-held radios, but almost all of them have disappeared. They were seldom in a good working order, the reception was awful, the battery life was crap and they weighed a ton. They were so heavy that, should I be assaulted, I’d be better off using it as a weapon rather than trying to call for help.
Our mobile phones are also fairly useless – they are locked so you can only call certain numbers and because of the lack of staff up in Control you can be waiting a long time for the phone to be answered. They are also pretty poor at getting a signal – they don’t like tunnels. Or walls.
So – quite rightly – we will be getting a brand new system that will be integrated with other emergency services. It is spanking new and apparently much better (although there have been some concerns about possible health risks, although others play such risks down.)
The problem (besides the chance of getting tumours) is that we will only be getting this system in 2008, this is of course, hoping that a government I.T. plan goes to plan – which, given recent schemes which have gone five times over budget, is highly unlikely.
I’m guessing that effective radios for ambulances is a pretty low priority given the financial state of a lot of NHS trusts. Most of this problem is due to the unexpectedly high cost of Agenda for Change (40% of the extra money earmarked for the NHS) – it has gotten so bad that at least one hospital is making 1 in 7 staff redundant (because we obviously need less nurses, not more). Although, at the risk of sounding like NHSblogdoc, the blessed Patricia Hewitt is blaming ‘bad management’.
We can only work with the money that the government gives us – there is no way we can ‘turn a profit’ on ambulance work – especially as we seem to be doing more and more community work for no additional funds.
So – communication failure has little to do with the LAS, and all to do with the money the government gives us.
(And this is after the government screwed EMTs over Agenda for Change bandings in order to give us as little money as possible)