London Ambulance Service - New Year's Eve & Day

MQT on 2017-01-18
Session date: 
January 18, 2017
Question By: 
Onkar Sahota
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Is the Mayor concerned that the London Ambulance Service call handling system crashed during its busiest period: New Year's Eve and Day, requiring emergency calls to be logged using pen and paper? Does the Mayor feel that this is acceptable given the consequences for London's resilience, and how will he ensure that further collaboration and corresponding between LAS and other emergency services won't exasperate this type of issue?


Answer for London Ambulance Service - New Year's Eve & Day

Answer for London Ambulance Service - New Year's Eve & Day

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I thank you for your question.  I am very much concerned that the London Ambulance Service (LAS) call-handling system failed.  This is a matter that I take seriously and, in fairness to the LAS, it is also taking very seriously.


I have been informed that whilst the issues were ongoing, the LAS continued to prioritise its response to patients with life-threatening conditions as normal and that control room staff are trained to use manual backup systems when required.  I would like to pay tribute to the excellent emergency call handlers who pulled out all the stops to ensure service continuity.  I hope to visit them later this year, when I will give my thanks in person.


A manual system is not as efficient as a computer-based system and, therefore, the time taken to process the information increased.  A full investigation into the technical difficulties it had on New Year’s Day has been launched and that is absolutely right.  I have asked LAS leaders to keep me fully informed of the outcome.  We need to do everything we can to avoid a repeat and to take away any lessons learned.


The emergency services have also committed to look at how emergency control rooms work together in London.  I think that this is what the Assembly Member is referring to when he talks about “further collaboration”.  This is a long-term piece of work and I have been assured that it would not be carried out in a way that jeopardises the delivery and response of emergency services.


Speaking more generally, I am very concerned that our National Health Service (NHS) has been under considerable pressure in recent weeks and months.  Many key stakeholders - not least the British Red Cross - believe that it is in crisis due to increased demand.  This is simply not good enough and the Government needs to do more to resolve the crisis.  The NHS should meet the needs of everyone and we should all be entitled to a decent service free at the point of delivery.


Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  Thank you for that, Mr Mayor, and I echo your gratitude for all the hard work done by NHS staff and also the LAS.  We recognise that.


However, of course, pressure on ambulances and accident and emergency departments (A&Es) is the acid test of the NHS.  At the last MQT I warned that we could be heading for a very bad winter and of course, if you believe the comments of the Red Cross, we are in that situation and we have a human crisis now.


You have said in the past that you will be holding the NHS’s feet to the fire about A&E performances in London.  What steps are you taking to hold this Government to account and to make sure that Londoners do get a good service from the NHS and from the LAS affecting their lives?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am seeing both Simon Stevens [Chief Executive, NHS England] and Jeremy Hunt [Secretary of State for Health] separately over the course of the next two weeks and I will be impressing upon them some of the points you have said.  My role is to challenge and champion the NHS.  Of course we champion the NHS.  You know from personal experience the crucial role it plays.  We have to challenge the NHS as well as those in positions of power and influence, like the Secretary of State and others, to make sure the resources are there and the right help is there to make sure the NHS provides a good service.


That does not mean status quo.  We always have to change and evolve.  That is why we have looked at collaboration, blue-lights working closer together from control rooms, co‑responding and other things we can be doing as well.  We cannot stand still.  One of the things we are looking at is how we use resources and to try to save resources by working closer together from the LAS to the fire service and the police.  We are talking at the moment about how we can work closer together.


However, there is a crisis whether you go to an A&E, as you know, whether you are ringing to try to get an appointment with your general practitioner (GP), whether it is social care or whether it is the LAS.  There is a crisis within the NHS.  No one can deny that now.


Dr Onkar Sahota AM:  Thank you for that, Mr Mayor.