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Service receives ‘excellent’ and ‘fair’ ratings in annual health check

The London Ambulance Service has been rated ‘excellent’ for the way in which it managed its finances last year – the highest of any ambulance service.

It has been given a ‘fair’ rating, however, for its quality of services by the Care Quality Commission – despite experiencing its best ever year, reaching more patients more quickly than ever before.

In 2008/09 crews reached an extra 47,000 of the most seriously ill and injured patients within the Government target of eight minutes compared to the previous year.

This was achieved despite tougher new ways of measuring response times and a rise in demand which saw the total number of emergency calls exceed 1.4 million for the first time.

In the previous annual health check (2007/08), both the quality of financial management and quality of services were rated as ‘good’.

Deputy Chief Executive Martin Flaherty said: “While we have been judged as excellent for the way we manage our finances, we’re disappointed that the rating for our quality of services has fallen since our last assessment.

“Our staff have continued to work very hard to provide the best possible level of care to our patients at a time when demand has increased. In fact, patients are receiving better care from us than ever before.

“We have performed exceptionally well in what has been a very difficult year, with heavy snowfall in February just one of the many challenges we faced.”

In 2008/09 the Service responded to almost 974,000 incidents, an increase of nearly three per cent on the previous year, of which nearly 320,000 were Category A calls – those where patients are assessed as being in an immediately life-threatening condition.

Martin added: “We still have work to do and over the last few months we have recruited almost 400 frontline staff to help us provide an excellent level of care to people in London.”

“However, we would continue to ask Londoners to use their ambulance service wisely by only calling us in the event of an emergency.”

Patients who are not seriously ill or injured should consider other ways of getting help instead of dialling 999, such as calling NHS Direct on 0845 4647, visiting their GP, local pharmacist of walk-in centre, or making their own way to hospital.

Calling 999 does not mean you will automatically be sent an ambulance – you may be given clinical advice over the telephone. Going to A&E by ambulance will not get you seen any quicker – you will be assessed and prioritised when you get there, and the most seriously ill people will be treated first.

People with flu-like symptoms should call the National Pandemic Flu Service on 0800 1 513 513 or visit

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Notes to editors

For full results of the Care Quality Commission report visit

A summary of the Healthcare Commission’s annual performance rating for the London Ambulance Service 2008/09 is displayed in the table below.

Overall annual performance rating (made up of two parts)
Performance Category Rating
    Quality of financial management ‘Excellent’
    Quality of services ‘Fair’

“Based on our assessment for 2008/09, the quality of services provided by London Ambulance Service NHS Trust to its local population was ‘fair’. The financial management rating for this organisation is ‘excellent’, as this organisation has been assessed as performing strongly. Arrangements appear to be operating effectively and financial targets have been met for the past two years.”

Quality of Services
Quality Metric Rating
    Meeting core standards ‘Fully Met’
    Existing commitments ‘Partly Met’
    National priorities ‘Fair’


In 2008/09 we responded to:

  • 75.5 per cent of Category A calls (immediately life-threatening) within eight minutes
  • 99 per cent of Category A calls within 19 minutes
  • 84.5 per cent of Category B calls (serious but not immediately life-threatening) within 19 minutes.

From April 2008, the ‘clock’ used to measure the speed of response to a call changed so that it started once the caller was connected to the control room – rather than as previously when the caller’s telephone number and the patient’s location and nature of their illness or injury had been established.

The change means that recorded response times now start approximately two minutes earlier than they did, while the actual target of eight minutes remains unchanged – meaning that patients get a better service from us.

During 2008/09 we also:

  • Received a total of 1,423,496 emergency calls into our Emergency Operations Centre, compared to 1,389,660 in 2007/08
  • Attended a total of 973,908 emergency incidents, compared to 945,776 in 2007/08 – of these, 319,677 were classed as Category A, compared to 315,744 in the 12 months before
  • Responded to 241,517 Category A patients within eight minutes, compared to 194,350 the previous year.

For further information on the London Ambulance Service or this news release please contact the communications department on 020 7921 5113.