London Ambulance Service Attendance is a Postcode Lottery 13 Jan 2015

It has recently been reported in the press that if you live in Camden you are more likely to survive a cardiac arrest than if you live in east London. The reason for this disparity is, according to the London Ambulance Service, due to many factors namely ‘ethnicity and heart disease’. However, it is more likely than not to be due to how long it takes for the ambulance to arrive at the scene and treat the patient in a timely fashion.

The response times for ambulance crews arriving at the scene to treat cardiac arrests are interesting in that the best response times are 5 minutes and 51 seconds in Camden, Hackney came a close second with 6 minutes 15 seconds, Bromley is reported to have survival rates of 15.1% and Newham on the other hand had survival rates of 4.4%.

Another factor for the increased survival rates is having specialised equipment to hand, such as a defibrillator. These defibrillators are now kept in public places and there are 2,600 kept in public places in London and between May 2014-November 2014 such defibrillators were used by first aiders in emergency situations on 38 occasions and 10 people were successfully resuscitated.

Interestingly, the statistics published reveal that 23 out of 127 patients ie 18.1% in Camden survived post resuscitation and only 4 out of 108, that is 3.7% survived in the city of London and Hackney. On the same day that the statistics were published it was also reported in the press that a cyclist was left lying in the road for 90 minutes waiting for an ambulance to arrive after being knocked off of her bicycle in Teddington Middlesex. The ambulance service explained the reason for the delay was due to ambulances being called to more serious incidences.

There is a serious problem in that it is reported in the press that on 28 November 2014, there were 6000 reported telephone calls to the ambulance service and only 300 ambulances available. Statistics also reveal that in November only 64% of ambulances were sent to serious emergencies and arrived at the scene on time. This is below the set target of 75%.

I am acting for a family where an ambulance was called to deal with a serious emergency and the telephone operator cancelled the ambulance on the basis of reassurance from the very sick patient that she was ok. Further calls were made to the ambulance service explaining the patient was unwell and had difficulty breathing due to a long term condition, yet an ambulance was not dispatched and as a consequence the patient died aged 29. It it truly heartbreaking for the family. The deceased left a partner and a young child and it is possible that the death could have been avoided if an ambulance had attended the scene after the first telephone call and the correct treatment administered.

Changes need to be made to prevent fatalities, and if that means more ambulances and more crews available then that must be the ways forward. It is tragic when accidents or incidents occur that lead to fatalities, especially if these could be avoided with expedient medical treatment.

If you think that you have suffered substandard medical care or treatment as a result of delays by the emergency services, you can contact Osbornes Medical Negligence department for a free and confidential conversation on
020 7485 8811. Alternatively, you can email either Stephanie Prior, Head of Medical Negligence at or Ewelina Ochab at

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