Response to London Assembly 7 July Review Committee report

5 June 2006

To be attributed to Chief Executive Peter Bradley:

“The events of 7 July were unprecedented and the courageous actions of our staff and their colleagues from other agencies undoubtedly saved lives.

“We have acknowledged we faced difficulties with communications that day, but this did not prevent us treating and transporting more than 400 patients to hospital from all the sites within three hours; this is a testament to the way everyone involved handled what was a tremendously challenging situation.

“We have been honest about the fact that there were a number of lessons to learn, and indeed the Committee has previously praised us for the amount of information we have made available.

“While the committee’s findings broadly reflect those of our own debriefs, we will study the recommendations closely to ensure they are fully addressed in our ongoing work to further improve our ability to manage future incidents.”

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

Our full response provided to the Assembly in March can be found here

Improvements to our major incident planning since 7 July

Since the events of 7 July, we have made a number of improvements to the way we will respond to major incidents. These include:

  • Issuing radio pagers to managers for use in major incidents.
  • Developing a pre-determined response for any future major incidents, including sending 20 ambulances and six managers to the scene as soon as a major incident is declared.
  • Reconfiguring our new incident control room, with an improved ability to manage multiple simultaneous major incidents.
  • Successfully lobbying to be brought forward in the rollout of the new national digital radio system for ambulance services. This will be introduced next summer and will be fully operational in early 2008. Ahead of this we will also be receiving an interim allocation of 200 digital radio handsets. The first of these will be arriving next month and will be issued to operational managers.
  • Reviewing levels of equipment carried on our emergency support vehicles, as well as now carrying additional supplies on 25 training officer vehicles.

Our response to specific issues within the London Assembly’s report:

Communications / mobile phone issues

We have been open about the fact that we were over-reliant on mobile phones. We have now issued all our managers with radio pagers, which are more resilient in a major incident.

Technically our radios worked, though we have admitted that the volume of traffic on our radio system made it difficult for managers to get through and speak to the control room. We have made changes to our internal procedures to address these problems, and have reconfigured our major incident control room so we can deal more effectively with a number of simultaneous incidents. The Service has also been brought forward in the roll-out programme for a new national digital radio system for ambulance services, and this should be fully operational early in 2008.

To clarify, it was our managers who had difficulty in communicating with our central control room that day; once at scene our ambulance crews come under the direct control of local management teams and do not need to contact our control room for instructions, either by mobile phone or radio.

Use of hospitals

On 7 July, we initially put all the hospitals in London on standby, letting them know that a major incident had occurred and that we might need their assistance. We then confirmed with seven hospitals that we would be bringing patients into them.

Distribution of patients to these hospitals was generally good, with the exception of the Royal London Hospital which received three busloads of patients with minor injuries from two of the scenes. Faced with communication problems, our operational managers on the ground quite rightly took the decision to use the buses based on information they were receiving from ambulance crews and their local knowledge of hospitals in the area.

There is no doubt, however, that if communications had been better, we would have achieved a better distribution of patients with minor injuries by spreading the load across three or more hospitals.

Delay in additional ambulances being sent to Russell Square

We got to all the scenes very quickly and gave priority to those people who were most seriously injured, treating and taking them to hospital as quickly as possible.

We experienced delays in getting a second wave of ambulances to Russell Square; our communication problems made it difficult for our managers to request further resources, and it is also evident that ambulance crews who were on their way to Russell Square instead became involved with the rescue operation at the bus bombing in nearby Tavistock Square. Once it became apparent that this was happening, staff were redeployed to Russell Square.

The delays in sending the second wave of ambulances meant that it took us longer to get the less seriously injured patients to hospital, but we still managed to treat over 400 patients and take them from the sites within three hours.

Availability of medical equipment

Given the nature of the incidents and the large number of casualties involved, it was inevitable that medical supplies were going to be used up quickly. We accept that there were delays in getting further equipment to some of the scenes, but we worked hard do address this and were able to move all patients to hospital within three hours.

We have since reviewed levels of equipment carried on our emergency support vehicles, and we also now carry additional supplies on 25 of our training officer vehicles.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please call London Ambulance Service communications department on 020 7921 5113.