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Ambulances are to be ordered to remain within north London in a bid to avoid having too many emergency crews south of the river.
A 10-week trial is being launched next week by London Ambulance Service that involves “tethering” vehicles to their “home” patch. Crews will only cross into another sector if called to assist a fast-response solo paramedic dealing with a cardiac arrest, or if a major incident is declared.
The pilot scheme comes ahead of new national targets that cut the time allowed to reach cardiac patients from eight to seven minutes — but which more than double the deadline for other “potentially serious” emergency calls, from eight to 18 minutes.
The “tethering” scheme aims to tackle LAS’s historic imbalance of having more staff in south London and respond to concerns that response times are approaching unsafe levels in outlying north London boroughs such as Enfield and Barnet.
Crews will be told to remain within the North West, North Central or North East sectors. In North Central, which covers Barnet, Camden, Islington, Haringey and Enfield, there has been a wide disparity in response times — Camden patients were reached within eight minutes on 82 per cent of occasions in April, compared with 62 per cent in Enfield and 65 per cent in Barnet. The NHS target is 75 per cent.
LAS operations director Paul Woodrow said that central London often ended up “awash” with emergency responders, leaving parts of north London “out of reach”. He said: “The swirling of resources is very inefficient in terms of hitting targets and getting to patients quickly.”
In addition, North Central ambulances will come under the control of a dedicated team of dispatchers at LAS headquarters in Waterloo. This aims to tackle the problem of emergency crews being dragged across the capital, missing rest breaks and ending shifts miles from their “home” station. Restricting them to a patch will increase their knowledge of local roads and hospitals.
Alex Ewings, a quality manager at LAS, said ambulances would be “protected within a bubble”. However, some colleagues expressed concern at the possible “fragmentation” of a Londonwide service.
LAS said that staff had traditionally been given the option where to work, with a majority choosing south London. Recruitment is now being targeted at areas with the largest staff shortages.
London News & Search