Emergency Response

MQT on 2014-10-22
Session date: 
October 22, 2014
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


When Londoners call their emergency services will they get the response they need?


Answer for Emergency Response

Answer for Emergency Response

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, thank you, Andrew.  In the vast majority of cases - and I speak as somebody obviously who over the years has had to call out the London Ambulance Service (LAS) several times - they have an extremely fine record.  The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has a fine record.  

The Metropolitan Police Service figures at the moment show that for average response times to emergency calls, we had 93.1% meeting the target of arriving within 15 minutes.  For the LFB, average London-wide attendance times for first and second appliances were 5.23 minutes and 6.45 minutes.  That is well within the targets that everybody knows of six minutes for the first appliance and eight minutes for the second appliance. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  We still do not know what the impact of the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan (LSP5) will be on the fire service because the detailed figures simply are not available yet. 

As far as the police are concerned, we have explored before the impact in Barnet, for example, which has the second worst in attendance times in London and is routed in the red in your spreadsheet league table.  If they had been a football club, they would have been relegated long ago.  The concern is not the average.  The concern is the real emergencies and individual calls that are outside and not met within that target.  In Barnet, in June, it took 67 minutes to answer an incident involving children.  In Camden it took 58 minutes to attend an incident involving a knife.  

The problem is there are just not enough police officers, are there?  In May 2010 compared to now, Barnet has 50 fewer police officers than we had four years ago.  That is down to your cuts, is it not? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It depends where you take the figures from.  As you know perfectly well ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I take the figures from May 2010 when this Government came to power, not your artificial figure that you try to massage to pretend there are more when there are not. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ the numbers are going up across London.  We are putting 2,600 more into policing.  As we have discussed before, I believe, in this place there has been a particular question, you have asked it before, about Barnet’s response times.  They are 2.5% under the target of 90%.  They could be better.  I am told that is a function of the size of the borough.  Clearly that is something I imagine you will have taken up with your Borough Commander. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Of course.  It is due to the size of the borough.  The fact is ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Is that what he has told you? 

Andrew Dismore AM:  ‑‑ we do not have enough police officers to cover a borough of that size.  

Let us look at the Ambulance Service.  You mentioned that earlier on.  It is your job to deal with health and equalities across London.  Across London, in August, the Ambulance Service met its target times for only 62% of calls.  If you had broken the ankle of that nine-year-old boy you fouled in that football match that had more coverage than ‘Match of the Day’, how long do you think it would have taken an ambulance to come?  How long? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is a hypothetical question.  What I can tell you from my own experience ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  How long do you think it would have taken for someone to come and attend to a broken ankle like that?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ I did attend a cycling accident not far from Tooley Street.  I called an ambulance and it was there in less than five minutes.  It was extraordinary.  They were fantastic and the guy was treated on the spot. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Let me tell you, Mr Mayor ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That has happened several times while cycling.  I do not think it is just that they are responding fast because they are getting to talk to me.  

Andrew Dismore AM:  ‑‑ in Southwark ambulances only arrive on time, on target, in 69% of cases.  In Barnet it is just 56%.  Almost half of calls are not met within the target time, compared of course to Kensington where it is ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are talking now about ambulances? 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Yes.  That is compared to Kensington where it is 72%.  Now, 10% of calls are not going to be answered by the ambulance service at all.  Is it not time ‑‑ 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Hang on.  

Andrew Dismore AM:  ‑‑ that instead of tackling nine-year-olds you tackled this delay in the Ambulance Service and deal with this health and equalities? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Everybody who studies this problem seriously knows that the Ambulance Service is seeing an escalating demand.  On the whole it does an amazing job.  If you look at what is happening in London on, for instance, the murder rate or fatalities generally, fatalities on our roads and KSIs, a lot of the success that the city has enjoyed - an amazing success with a 50% reduction in the murder rate and big reductions in injuries and deaths of ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Not in violent crime.  Violent crime is up, is it not? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ pedestrians - is because of the prompt attendance ‑‑ 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Violent crime is dramatically up, isn’t it? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ of the Ambulance Service.  It is under pressure.  People will understand the reasons for this because there are problems in accident and emergency departments (A&Es) and problems in primary care that will be familiar to many people in this city.  They are not, unfortunately, the direct responsibility of this mayoralty. 

One of the side effects is that people go for an ambulance when they do not necessarily need one.  It is very difficult to reproach people for this because after all human nature is what it is.  You do not feel you can take a risk with your child.  If your child seems to be unwell, you are entitled to want the best and the promptest service.  However, on an awful lot of occasions, people are summoning ambulances when, frankly, they do not need them and some other mode of transport would do just as well. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  It is the public’s fault, not your fault? 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What the Ambulance Service is trying to do is to try to restrict people from making use of what should be an emergency service that should be there to save lives. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  We blame the public, not your failures on the health  service. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is why in September ‑- 

Andrew Dismore AM:  I am finished. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ to get back to your 10% point, a decision was taken by the LAS to try to prioritise calls and to try to say, “Look, if you have a non-urgent call, then we will not necessarily attend at the same speed we would attend a cardiac arrest or a cycling accident”.  That has to be reasonable. 

Andrew Dismore AM:  He has run the clock down as usual.