LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [9]

Session date: 
December 2, 2015
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Ron Dobson (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, London Fire Brigade)


Andrew Dismore AM:  Just to build on Val’s point, it is also important that we really promote first aid training in schools.  I remember doing it when I was in the Sea Scouts and then, 20 years later, actually having to do it for real.  It did take the ambulance some time to get there.  Unfortunately, the chap died, but I did bring him back twice.

The point I wanted to make is for Ron, really, and it is what Gareth said about the police doing co-responding, which they are.  I was discussing this with a senior police officer the other evening.  She said that one of the problems that has arisen from this is that the LAS tends to take a back foot and police officers are then left tied up with a casualty for an hour or an hour-and-a-half.  Hopefully, it would not be the case with a heart attack, but there is a risk in the system that we end up effectively looking after somebody for far longer than would be appropriate, firstly, and, secondly, tying up our own resources because the pump is off the run for anything else while that person is being attended to.

Also, I read in the Evening Standard that police cars are being used to take people to hospital.  Are we going to end up with a situation where we are having to use pumps to take people to hospital because an ambulance just has not turned up?  We already have queues of ambulances outside hospitals waiting to get people to accident and emergency (A&E).  If we have fire engines joining the queue as well, there is going to be one hell of a traffic jam outside A&E departments, is there not?

What discussions have you had with the police about the implications for them?  Effectively, although we are talking about doing a pilot ourselves, which we may or may not end up doing, at the moment the police are acting as a pilot for us and are learning some of the problems that have arisen.


Answer for LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [9]

Answer for LFEPA Cuts and the Safety of Londoners (Supplementary) [9]

Answered By: 
Ron Dobson (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, London Fire Brigade)

Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, LFB):  I absolutely accept that point and I have discussed this with police officers as well.  Part of the discussions we have been having with the LAS has been tri-service with the police as well and so we are aware of those sorts of issues.

It is about how you define the pilot and what agreements you make with the LAS about how it is going to respond in these circumstances.  It is absolutely clear that once it has already been triaged through their control room, they will only seek to mobilise if they know they cannot get there in a reasonable time.  It is not just going to be any call that comes in that we could get mobilised to.

The other thing we are being very clear with the LAS on is that our staff are there for the minimum amount of time possible looking after a casualty without an ambulance member of staff there.  It has absolutely undertaken that it would mobilise just as quickly as it possibly could.  It is just that we might be able to get there quicker and therefore make an intervention before the ambulance gets there.

There are things that we need to see, agree the terms of the pilot and get the pilot running.  If there are issues around whether or not the LAS is slowing down its response if we have already mobilised, it would be something that would need to be resolved before we could go anywhere near taking the pilot any further forward.  All of the issues you have raised are absolutely part of the discussion we are having with the LAS and, indeed, with the trade unions because they have raised issues as well.  They are things that I would be really keen that we resolve before we get into actually running the pilot.  We have had some positive discussions with the LAS about it.  It is very keen that we are part of the solution and part of the improvement in terms of patient outcomes.  We are not the solution to it and there are things that we are need to carry on discussing with it to make sure that, one, the pilot is run on a fair basis and that, two, our staff are not exposed to any unnecessary risks in terms of the amount of time they spend with a casualty.

On the availability issue, you are absolutely right that if a fire engine was attending a cardiac response call, it would not be available for something else.  However, unfortunately, our call rates are such that we do not believe it would have a very large impact.  We are modelling how many cardiac arrest calls we might get and at the moment the numbers are relatively low.

Andrew Dismore AM:  Will that feature in the LSP6 assessment?

Ron Dobson CBE QFSM (Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning, LFB):  It depends on what happens with the pilot.