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Upgrading our ambulance stations to modernise our estate

In our five year strategy published in 2018, we outlined our ambition to become a world-class ambulance service for a world-class city through seven enabling strategies, one of which is the transformation of our operations and estate to ensure it is fit for the modern 21st century.

We recognised that our estate comprised of an eclectic mix of property inherited and accumulated over many years, much of which dated back to the Victorian times of horse-drawn ambulances in 1880s, and was not fit for purpose in a modern, world-class city.

In driving forward our strategy and taking on board the recommendations from Lord Carter’s review into ‘Operational productivity and performance in English NHS ambulance trusts: unwarranted variation’, we published our ‘Estates Vision’ in 2019 which detailed how we plan to overhaul our estate by replacing our existing 68 stations with a network of about 18 state-of-the-art Ambulance Deployment Centres, operating under a new ‘Hub and Spoke’ model.

Speaking in September 2021, London Ambulance Service Chief Executive Daniel Elkeles confirmed that earlier plans to consolidate stations in north-east London to a ‘Hub’ in Dagenham were being paused. He said:

“Over the past month we have been reviewing our plans to modernise our ambulance station estate. While we must upgrade our ageing estate because so much of it is not fit for purpose, we are now going to be able to keep using Romford ambulance station until 2023 at the earliest.

“This means we now have much more time to ensure we develop the best way forward to meet the needs of our patients, staff and volunteers. And so we are pausing the plans to consolidate the ambulances stations in north east London.  As we prepare for winter, pausing our plans will also help us cope with the challenging seasonal pressure ahead.

“We will not make any changes to our services which impacts on the quality of care we provide to our patients and will ensure the public and other partners get a chance to have a say as we develop our plans.”

What are our plans?

These Ambulance Deployment Centres, or ‘Hubs’, which will be supported by strategically located standby points and response points for our staff and volunteers across London, will have modern, fit-for-purpose facilities.

An artist's impression of an Ambulance Deployment Centre shows medics walking to an ambulance in front of the Hub building
An artist’s impression of an Ambulance Deployment Centre

This includes having ambulance ‘Make Ready’ and light vehicle maintenance facilities present – reducing the time vehicles are off-the-road for maintenance and repairs.

‘Make Ready’ teams are specialists who clean, restock and check the equipment on ambulances before the beginning and at the end of every shift.

There will also be modern management, administrative, training and wellbeing facilities available to our crews at the start and end of their shift, which will help improve the standard of care we provide to our patients across London.

This model is already successfully used across other ambulance services, including West Midlands Ambulance Service and South East Coast Ambulance Service.

How will this impact on LAS staff and on the public and our patients?

We will not make any changes to our services which impacts on the quality of care we provide to our patients and will ensure the public and other partners get a chance to have a say as we develop our plans.

An artist's impression of an Ambulance Deployment Centre shows ambulances behind building shutters and parked outside
An artist’s impression of an Ambulance Deployment Centre

As ever, we will prioritise our response to the sickest and most seriously-injured patients. The majority of incidents we attend are dispatched from hospitals, standby points across London or directly from responding to previous patients, rather than from ambulance stations directly.

Our operating model and how our crews respond

As a fully mobile health service which covers a large geographical area, how we dispatch our crews to respond to patients is based around allocating the most appropriate resources to each and every incident, which means that a majority of incidents we attend are dispatched from hospitals, standby points across London or directly from responding to a previous patient, rather than from ambulance stations directly.An ambulance leaving a hospital ramp at night

In modernising our operations through the development of an Ambulance Deployment Centres- which will be designed around patient care and will enable rapid and efficient preparation and deployment of our frontline teams – we believe this will help ensure we can provide resilient and consistent high quality care to our patients first time, every time.