The London Ambulance Crisis: Managers 'created an atmosphere of mistrust'

IT WOULD be hard to paint a more damning picture of failed management than that which emerged from the inquiry into London Ambulance Service yesterday.

The report said the LAS management 'created an atmosphere of mistrust' with its over-aggressive style, born in part out of desperation to put right decades of poor performance.

The LAS made 'virtually every mistake in the book', when implementing its 'ambitious' pounds 1.5m computer system, one of the three-strong inquiry team said. This computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system was seen as the only hope the service had to put right its poor response times in dealing with emergency calls. But the software was 'not complete, not properly tuned, and not fully tested', the report said.

The inquiry team was set up after the CAD system broke down on 26 and 27 October last year, then collapsed a second time on 4 November, forcing controllers to revert to pen and paper to dispatch ambulances.

Managers took a high-risk, 'misguided' decision to have the CAD system up and running in one phase. The system was developed and installed in 'an impossible timetable', the report said. The final system had known technical problems, and the people who would have to use it were not properly trained to do so. The team concluded that LAS management ignored advice to this effect 'from many outside sources'.

One of the team members, Paul Williams, said management had concentrated on getting the best price for its computer system, rather than the one which would be best for the job.

He said he would have expected a system of this kind to have cost at least twice as much as the LAS computer. The report said there was 'no evidence of key questions being asked about why the (final) bid was substantially lower than other bidders'. The report questioned the apparent lack of accountability within the service itself, and upwards to managers at regional level. This was exacerbated by LAS operating at arm's length from its health authority, which meant it was not subject to checks from regional managers.

The team said that although the computer system did what it was supposed to do, the design had 'fatal flaws' that together would lead to all the symptoms of a systems failure. It found that System Options, the software company which supplied the system, had never before dealt with a system this large and complex. 'We believe they (the software supplier) rapidly found themselves in a situation where they were out of their depth.'

The team believes some parts of the failed computer system can be salvaged, although chunks of the applications software may need to be substantially re-written.

The report refutes earlier statements from the LAS that the two disastrous days in October had been exceptionally busy. The number of calls was in fact only a little above average. It was only when ambulances failed to arrive, and duplicate calls came in, that things got out of hand.

LAS board members appeared to have been given a 'misleading impression' about progress with the computer system, and regional managers seemed to have even less of an idea of what was going on within LAS.

Last year's crisis prompted the resignation of John Wilby, then chief executive of the service. Yesterday, South West Thames Regional Health Authority revealed that it had already decided to remove Mr Wilby from his post, having first raised fears over his performance at a meeting with him six months before the computer breakdown.

Jim Harris, LAS chairman, denied that this might have put pressure on Mr Wilby to produce results. But the report concluded that 'an important factor was almost certainly the culture within the LAS of 'fear of failure'.'

Professor Marion Hicks, the health authority's chairman, said Mr Wilby was given a limited length of time to improve, but by mid-October 'the decision had been taken to terminate his contract'. This would have gone ahead in November if the LAS board had not been taken over by events, and Mr Wilby's voluntary resignation.

Non executive LAS board members who remain are: Roddy Braithwaite, Victor Paige, Mary Spinks, Janet Preston and Stephen Miles. The executive comprises: Martin Gorham (chief executive), Alan Kennedy (acting director of operations), Simon Young (director of Finance), and Bernadette el-Hadidy (director of human resources).

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine