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