A Press Release

London Ambulance Service celebrates best year, but urges public to ‘use us wisely’
SERIOUSLY ill and injured patients in the capital are getting a quicker response from ambulance staff than ever before, but those who do not really need emergency help are once again being urged to use the 999 system wisely.

The 2007/08 year was the best in the London Ambulance Service’s history, despite a further rise in demand which took the number of emergency calls received up to nearly 1.4 million.

A total of more than 943,000 incidents were responded to, an increase of more than three per cent on 2006/07, and included 315,700 Category A calls (assessed from information received as being serious or immediately life-threatening).

Of these, 79 per cent were reached within eight minutes, which represented the Service’s best ever performance against the Government’s national target of 75 per cent and was helped by improvements in the time taken to answer calls in the control room.

The news caps a very successful year for the capital’s ambulance staff. The Service was named the highest-rated in the country by the Healthcare Commission in October and the survival rate of people suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in London has more than trebled in the last five years.

The improved speed in responding to patients was made all the more notable by the fact that November and December 2007 were the busiest months in the Service’s history, and that demand has also remained comparatively high since then.

Now, in an effort to remind the public of the other healthcare options available before calling 999, the Service has produced a newspaper advert to appear in a range of publications across the capital.

Chief Executive Peter Bradley CBE said: “Staff from every department in the organisation have played their part in what has been our most successful year ever, and we can be confident that the high-quality care and treatment we are providing to our patients is continuing to improve all the time.

“Londoners can also help us to help them by using us wisely and only calling us in an emergency, so that we can really focus on those people who genuinely need our help.”

The way in which ambulance response times across the country are measured changed at the beginning of this month, meaning that the ‘clock’ now starts as soon as a call is connected to the control room, rather than after key information has been obtained from the caller.

This new system – along with continued high numbers of calls from patients who do not really require emergency medical help – means that the Service will face a very challenging 12 months ahead.

Peter added: “The new way of measuring our response times is very good news for patients as it will require us to respond even more quickly to calls, and this should help save even more lives.

“What it does mean, though, is that more than ever we are urging those people who are not seriously ill or injured to consider other ways of getting help before dialling 999. This can include looking after themselves at home, calling NHS Direct on 0845 4647, or even making their own way to hospital, as arriving in an ambulance does not mean that they will be seen more quickly.”

The Service is now in the second year of an improvement programme running up to 2013 and which aims to move right away from a one-size fits all way of responding to patients.

Peter said: “We are planning to increase both our number of frontline staff and vehicles over the next year, and are looking to ensure that we can provide the most appropriate care for our each and every patient – whether that means caring for them in their own home, taking them to hospital or an urgent care centre, or to a specialist centre best placed to treat them for their particular condition.”

• In 2006/07, the Service reached 75 per cent of Category A calls within eight minutes

• Until the beginning of April this year, the clock started after the caller’s telephone number and the patient’s location and nature of their illness or injury had been established

11 thoughts on “A Press Release”

  1. On the surface – good news. And we all know the saying about statistics.The downside will probably be a cut in budget. If you can achieve this with the current budget levels, then (the powers that be believe) you can achieve more with less.Stats we would like to see.a) The total number of cases attended divided by the number of ambulance crews attending. i.e. The average number of calls a crew handles in a year.b) The number of calls by borough.c) a) broken down by borough.No prizes for guessing where our Tom would be in these lists. Probably top of the pile.

  2. I view such things with a healthy dose of cynicism. And i am not a natural cynic.Perhaps one might say that such figures are something of a miracle in spite of management and not because of anything wonderful they have one. This does not only apply to the LAS but to all the ambulance trusts across the UK.

    For your side of things, Tom, keep up the good work along with your colleagues in spite of mounting odds not helped by ORCAN happy bosses

  3. 943,000 calls is just a staggering number for us rural medics across the pond. Even more amazing was that someone was on scene within the magic 8 minutes 79% of the time. I am sure you put places like, Washington DC, Baltimore, and NYC to shame.Sorry to hear the change in response time measurement. That will make things difficult and dangerous, it seems to me.

  4. That made me think of what I do when I am unsure if its 999 or other I need (well if its my brittle asthma we dont hesitate to call) !!Up here is Staffordshire where I am we have limited access to out of hrs GPs as they are miles away in the city, so alot of people use the NHS direct website/phone line but that is far far from perfect at time !!

    Yes we can phone the out of hours drs co-op for advice but guess what their advice usually is – end off – one blunt piece of advice they give to nearly everyone is:

    “Call 999 they will deal with it! “

    What I am trying to say badly (yes again) is that someone in government or somewhere in power needs to get setup a proper service or phone line that WORKS to help people out when they are unsure what to do !!

    NHS direct can be useless – eg, when I had a massive abscess after bowel surgery, I was advised to take paracetamol and goto bed, the fact I was on stronger painkillers already. and my whole stomach area was hot, red and leaking puss didnt seem to bother the dosey advisor !!

    We can have all the ads in the world but people need somewhere to go for advise when 999 isnt appropraite that is staffed/manned by people who actually know what they are doing !!

    But well done LAS – a good report for a well deserving area !!

  5. As most people are aware – we tend to refer to NHS Direct as NHS MisDirect or NHS ReDirect.I would rarely advise someone with the most minor of illnesses or injuries to ring them. The first person to answer to call – as I understand it – is a NON-CLINICAL call-handler. If the patient will not wait to be interrogated by a CLINICALLY-TRAINED Nurse Advisor, they generally recommend an ambulance. This means that a call from the same patient which comes into LAS as “25 year old male with cough and runny nose for five days – advised to ring 999 by NHSD” cannot be redirected to Clinical Telephone Advice, and needs an amb, because “NHSD TOLD ME TO RING”. In my opinion, a useless waste of money. [Oh – this is especially the case when the ambulance crew tell said Twat that he will spend some 4-5 hours in casualty, and he then refuses conveyance, and gets US to arrange an OOH GP for him].

    Pointless exercise all round.

  6. My mum is one of those people who doesn't use the system 'wisely'! Last week she was experiencing pain which she described as bad as when she was last in labour and felt like she was gonna pass out. I asked her why she didn't take herself to hospital and she said she was in too much pain to leave the house! She withstood it until the next day when she said it had slightly abated and managed to get herself to her surgery where they were really concerned and promptly sernt her to A&E. What is it with the older generation?! (Also what is it with people my age who call an ambulance when they've only cut their finger!) There needs to be some education put out there to different groups.

  7. A MESSAGE TO OUR CUSTOMERS FROM SOMEONE JOLLY IMPORTANTMany more category A drunks were reached much more quickly in 2007/08 than ever before. However, the service is still urging drunks to use the 999 system wisely. If you are able to stagger to the off licence, you can get to your nearest hospital with a teeny bit more effort.

    A total of 79 per cent of category A sprained wrists and ankles with difficulty breathing (oohh – it hurts gasp, gasp) were reached within the government's target time of eight minutes between last April and the end of March. The sprained ankle you have been walking around on for a week is almost certainly not broken, but – hey – we'll send you an ambulance because we are as soft as sponge and won't say NO.

    The total number of emergency calls received rose to nearly 1.4 million, some of which actually warranted an ambulance, like old Doris on the floor for twelve hours with a fractured neck of femur and dehydration, but we ignored her because she wasn't pissed. More than 943,000 incidents were responded to, an increase of more than three per cent on 2006/07. It would have been 984,000, but lots of crews were on a break: good idea that one!!

    Now, in an effort to remind the public of the other health-care options available to them before calling 999, information adverts have appeared in Metro, London Lite, London Life, and on the side of cans of Tennants Extra and Diamond White, and are this week also being published in a range of local newspapers across the capital. And The Beano. The adverts will suggest that people with minor illnesses and injuries either ring NHS Direct or their own GP. As we all know, this will be a complete waste of time, since NHS Direct will say “We recommend you call an ambulance.” and the GP will say “I am paid 145,000 a year, so I don't do home visits – I recommend you call an ambulance.”

    “Staff from every department in the London Ambulance Service have played their part in what has been our most successful year ever, and we can be confident that the high-quality care and treatment we are providing to our patients is continuing to improve all the time,” said the Deputy Acting Assistant Head of Station Carpets.

    “We're also reminding Londoners that they can also help us to help them by using us wisely and only calling us in an emergency, or when they have no money for a cab, or need a lift so that we can really focus on those people who genuinely need our help. Like those people who have painful finger nails, itchy teeth and stubbed toes. And drunks.”

    The new Call Connect system came into effect at the beginning of the April, meaning that the 'clock' now starts as soon as the call is connected to the control room, rather than after key details about the patient are recorded. This will mean absolutely nothing to the great unwashed London public, who will still shout and swear at the call-takers, just a bit earlier in the call.

    The Deputy Acting Assistant Head of Station Carpets said: “We know that the introduction of the new standards is going to make the next 12 months very challenging for us, but if we can keep on reducing the times that patients wait for help then we will save even more lives. So I am going to ask my senior officers to keep annoying the sector staff, asking them to put crews on break, thereby holding Amber and Green calls, which are frequently the most deserving of an ambulance response. That should do it. Is my coffee ready?”

  8. Completely off topic, but I just wanted to say I don't know how you guys as paramedics cope with some of the stuff you must see. Yesterday I stopped at a serious road accident before any of the emergency services were there, obviously I wasn't able to do much but it was the work of the emergency services when they arrived which really struck me. It must be so difficult to deliver effective pre-hospital care, even if you've got a bag full of equipment. I've got a whole new level of respect for all the emergency services

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