London fire union: ambulance shortages will lead to deaths

Longer response time and ambulance availability worrisome to fire officials

The Romford Recorder

LONDON — A senior member of the Fire Brigade Union has said it is "only a matter of time" before people start dying because the London Ambulance Service is taking too long to respond to call-outs.

Firefighter Dave Neicho, the FBU's branch chairman at Ilford Fire Station, told how his colleagues battled to keep a seriously injured crash victim in Hall Lane, Upminster, conscious for more than an hour after being told no ambulances were available.

The two-vehicle accident happened on Sunday, June 3 — the bank holiday weekend.

Mr Neicho said by the time an ambulance turned up the fire crew had been sent additional medical supplies as they were running out of oxygen cylinders.

He said: "This isn't an isolated case. Ambulances are increasingly not available when we request them. Only recently we had a gentleman with serious burns to his hands and arms who had to be taken to hospital in a friend's car because no ambulance was available.

"It's only a matter of time before people start dying because there's no means to take them to hospital."

An LAS spokesman initially said it had received information the Upminster crash victims were "fully conscious and breathing and not in a life-threatening condition".

She added: "We remained in contact with those on scene to establish if there was any change in the patients' condition."

Mr Neicho said the fire service never gave information about the victims' conditions over the radio.

The LAS did not know one of the patients had lost consciousness until an ambulance arrived on the scene, he added.

The LAS spokesman said the crash was originally categorised as a "C2" incident, meaning the target response time would have been 30 minutes but, had they known one victim was unconscious, the incident would have been upgraded to Category A.

The LAS's target response time for a Category A incident is eight minutes.The LAS said high demand for ambulances over the four-day Jubilee weekend meant they were "unable to send an ambulance as quickly as we would have liked and we are very sorry for this delay".

The spokesman added the LAS had swelled its ranks by 100 staff to cope with the bank holiday period.

The LAS went to 71.5 percent of Category A incidents within eight minutes, and 80 percent of C2 incidents in 30 minutes during 2011/12, she said.

The service axed 151 of its 4,600 staff over the last year — despite the number of Category A incidents, which make up 40 percent of all call-outs, rising by nearly 30 percent.

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