Public Services > Healthcare

London Ambulance Service: New Year’s system disruption review ongoing

Neil Merrett Published 04 January 2017

Control room staff working for the organisation required to use paper-based systems to log calls for several hours on New Year’s Day


The London Ambulance Service has said it remains too early to draw conclusions from an ongoing review into technical difficulties that saw staff logging emergency calls by pen and paper for several hours early on New Year’s day.

Peter McKenna, the service’s deputy director of operations, said that a decision was taken to return to using pen and paper system to handle calls between 12:30am and 5:15am as celebrations continued across the capital.

The organisation said that it was currently reviewing the reasons for the computer disruptions, which would be shared when available, along with any potential responses to be taken.

“Our control room staff are trained to operate in this way and continue to prioritise our response to patients with life-threatening conditions, using the same triage system as usual,” he said.

“We also have additional clinicians on duty to offer control room staff clinical advice [if] needed.”

Despite having trained its staff to operate with paper-based systems in case of system disruption, the ambulance service accepted that the time to process information would have increased without use of its computer systems.

“We are very sorry to anyone who may have waited longer," said the ambulance service in a statement.

“Ambulance crews and control room staff worked incredibly hard throughout the night to deliver a service to Londoners and we continued to prioritise our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients, using the same assessment process as usual," the organisation said.

In November 2015, the ambulance service was put into special measures following an inspection report by the Care Quality Commission that found the overall quality of its services to be “inadequate”.

Looking at four key service areas, the commission classed both 'emergency and urgent care services' and 'resilience planning' as inadequate, while saying improvements were needed in 'patient transport services (PTS)' and 'emergency operations centre' operations.

"Overall, the trust was rated as Inadequate. Caring was rated as Good. Effective and Responsive were rated as Requires Improvement. Safe and Well-led were rated as Inadequate," noted the CQC findings at the time.

The report had also raised some issues around technology use and fleet quality.

With the trust in the process of preparing for a further CQC inspection in February 2017, the organisation last year produced a number of monthly updates through 2016 to outline work in meeting key aims of its Quality Improvement Plan.

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London Ambulance Service put into special measures

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