Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall
Ambulances taking longer to reach incidents in North East London as government cuts bite

Ambulances taking longer to reach incidents in North East London as government cuts bite

New analysis of NHS data has revealed that ambulance services have failed to meet monthly target response times in North East London since March 2014. The analysis, by myself, comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) recommended last week that the London Ambulance Service (LAS) be placed into special measures. I believe the crisis facing the ambulance service is the culmination of years of underfunding and understaffing.

 

Ambulances are expected to respond to the most serious incidents within 8 minutes on 75% of callouts, in line with national targets. Yet the LAS has failed to meet this target across the capital since April 2014. The service hasn’t met its response times in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest for the same since March 2014.  

 

Whilst historically, response times are more likely to be missed during the winter months, government cuts to the LAS in 2010 have seen a consistent rise in the number of months the Service has failed to meet the target as it struggleswith inadequate levels of funding and staffing. With the LAS forced to find savings of £53m by 2015/16, average monthly response times dipped from 75% in 2010 to just 65% by 2014.

 

Last week, the CQC recommended the LAS be placed into special measures after an inspection resulted in an overall rating of ‘inadequate’. Speaking about the recommendation,Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said the LAS needed extra support to address poor performance on response times, whilst the Commission also called forimprovements on safety, effectiveness, and leadership. The Mayor of London has failed to lobby for better support for the LAS following government cuts, instead Boris Johnson has sat idly by and shamefully allowed the service to reach crisis point.

 

At a time when our capital’s resilience could be tested by anything from a deadly virus outbreak to a major terrorist incident, we need to know our ambulance service is equipped and ready to respond. There’s little doubt that the crisis facing our ambulance service is the culmination of years of underfunding and understaffing, which has had a worrying impact on response times in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

 

Whilst we know our paramedics are incredibly hardworking and committed, the fact remains that they need to be adequately supported and resourced. The Mayor has paid little attention to our warnings that London’s high cost of living and government cuts were making it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain enough staff. Insteadof standing up for the needs of Londoners and lobbying for support for the LAS, Boris Johnson has sat idly by and shamefully allowed the service to reach crisis point.