“Please help us to help you — only call 999 as a last resort”

This week our Chief Executive Garrett Emmerson wrote a piece in the Evening Standard about our Service’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, how the public can help us to help them and his pride in the incredible work our staff are doing on the frontline each and every day.

Read the piece below.


London is facing the greatest public-health challenge of modern times. As much of the nation begins to avoid travel, cancel plans, and work from home to fight coronavirus, my 6,000 staff and volunteers at the London Ambulance Service are working harder than ever to provide lifesaving help to Londoners in most need.

Unlike many organisations, we are facing an increased demand for our services at a time when many of our employees need to self-isolate.

Garrett Emmerson stood in a green Service jacket in front of an ambulance
Garrett Emmerson

Last week, we had our four busiest days ever, with our 999 service taking nearly 8,000 calls a day — many more than on New Year’s Eve, which is typically our busiest night. These call volumes are matched by those in our NHS 111 centres.

I am immensely proud of every single member of my team, not just those crews on the front line providing direct care to patients, but also those working in control centres answering calls and triaging patients, those working around the clock to maintain our vehicles, those working to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medicines and equipment, and those who work behind the scenes to keep our clinicians on the road.

We have faced many challenges over the years, but we are a truly resilient organisation, agile enough to meet tough demands and strong enough to power through difficult times. However, the fight against Covid-19 is on an unprecedented scale, challenging us as never before. For example, we have to ensure our crews have sufficient personal protective equipment available to them at all times when treating patients.

Responding to Covid-19 is a battle in which the whole country needs to play its part. One of the most important ways Londoners can help is to slow the spread of the virus by staying at home.

Please take time to find out about the disease. In the vast majority of cases the symptoms will be mild and those affected only need to self-isolate.

If you’re unsure and need more information, please go to nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19.

Please only call 999 in the most serious life-threatening emergencies. If possible, only call 111 if your concerns can’t be answered online. We are not yet at the peak of this epidemic, and we expect the emergency services to get busier.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures, which is why earlier this week I reached out to recent former ambulance service colleagues, particularly paramedics and call handlers, asking them to get in touch with us if they are able to help. If you are in a position to do this, please go to this link.

I would like to thank the public who have shown us such gratitude, and also the many individuals and organisations that have already offered us their support. We are taking up as many of these offers as we can, so they can help us provide care for our patients and support for our staff.

Garrett Emmerson

Chief Executive, London Ambulance Service

25 March 2020


Read this article on the Evening Standard website here.