I can’t blame bigwigs in the NHS for the meltdown of our 999 service. It’s fundamentally our own fault that the service we depend on to save our lives is breaking down. We call 999 at the slightest sniffle, which means paramedics and ambulance drivers find it impossible to keep up. They’re run ragged trying both to respond to every call and hit the government’s response time targets.
What I can blame the bigwigs for (by which I mean senior management in the NHS London Ambulance Services) and do in this week’s Spectator cover story, is that they have responded to the crisis in a catastrophically counterproductive way, with the result that their paramedics are fleeing the service. So many staff are leaving the London Ambulance Service (LAS) for example that it predicts a shortfall of 600 paramedics — that’s a third down — by the end of the year. They’re so desperate for staff, they’re trying to recruit from Australia.
LAS management claim to be baffled by the exodus, but I’ve spent a month speaking to whistle-blowers and former LAS paramedics and during the course of my little investigation I’ve concluded that the LAS (and perhaps this applies to other services nationwide too) have made three terrible mistakes:
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