‘Inadequate’ London Ambulance Service placed into special measures by health watchdog

A man in his 50s died on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest at the wheel of his car

A man in his 50s died on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest at the wheel of his car - Credit: Archant

The London Ambulance Service has been placed into special measures after being slammed by a health watchdog investigation as “inadequate”.

Nora Danzig died three days after waiting more than three hours for an ambulance

Nora Danzig died three days after waiting more than three hours for an ambulance - Credit: Archant

In an unprecedented move, chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards has called for the service to be placed under national supervision for urgent improvements to be made.

This follows a report from the Care Quality Commission(CQC) which described the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust as “inadequate”.

The report slammed the service for its poor ambulance response times.

Inspectors also noted a culture of harassment and bullying in the workplace with inadequately trained staff and a lack of available equipment needed for their jobs.

Bridget Forde

Bridget Forde - Credit: Archant

While the CQC found that the trust delivered services that were caring it ruled improvements were needed on safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership.

The conclusion comes after a team of 54 inspectors probed all aspects of the trust including interviewing patients during three weeks in June.

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Until March last year the trust was consistently the best-performing service in the country in responding to ‘category A’ calls which are immediately life-threatening cases.

However since then, the number of ambulances meeting the set response time of eight minutes has dropped to less than the 75 per cent target.

In May an inquest heard how a Holocaust survivor Nora Danzig, 84, died three days after waiting in agony with a fractured leg for more than three hours because no ambulances were available.

St Pancras coroner’s court heard the pensioner had to rely on volunteer-run Jewish fast response ambulance service Hatzola to take her to the Royal Free Hospital on December 14 following a fall outside her home in Wavel Mews, West Hampstead.

In December last year, former nurse Bridget Forde, 92, died after waiting five hours for an ambulance after suffering a fall and breaking her hip at her home in Birchwood Avenue, Muswell Hill.

In the same month, the Ham&High reported on how LAS had reached “crisis point” across the capital.

Camden saw a 20 per cent decrease in target ambulance waiting times between March and October 2014.

The LAS must now address the issues raised by the CQC before its rating can be upgraded.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “The trust has been performing poorly on response times since March 2014. This is a very serious problem, which the trust clearly isn’t able to address alone, and which needs action to put right.”

He added: “The leadership of LAS has told us that they have already taken action to address the issues we have raised, and we will be monitoring the service closely to ensure this continues.”

Dr Fionna Moore MBE, chief executive of the trust, issued an apology for “falling short of some of the standards CQC and Londoners expect”.

She added: “We accept that we need to improve the way we measure and monitor some important standards and processes but we would like to reassure Londoners that we always prioritise our response to our most critically ill and injured patients and, in the event of a major incident, we are ready to respond and CQC recognise this.”