Alex Grant, student paramedic at Anglia Ruskin University and for the London Ambulance Service, shares his thoughts on last week's media coverage of the London Ambulance Service.
In recent news you may have seen headlines such as “London Ambulance Service put into special measures” (The Independent) and “London Ambulance Service (LAS) rated inadequate by inspectors” (BBC News). Thanks to such headlines the lay person sees this as panic and chaos in the service which could lead to distrust of our emergency healthcare workers.
But let’s actually break down the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report to see if the media really are grabbing people’s attention for the right reasons. LAS was judged on the following criteria: Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive and Well-led. Of these, ‘Caring’ received a rating of ‘Good’, which to me is the most important target as caring is the fundamental part of our business. The other categories were rated ‘Requires improvement’, and one ‘Inadequate’. Certainly there are some questions which need to be asked, but should the overall CQC rating of ‘Inadequate’ be the crux of the articles published in the media? Are the media right to deliberately cause panic in the public?
London Ambulance service is the busiest service in the country, and has worked to be one of the best ambulances services worldwide. So why do the big media giants want to trash this image of one of the most vital services to London society and focus on the cracks and leaks in the system? One answer springs to mind: profit. Big, bulging headlines are bound to draw attention, making people buy the newspapers and visit websites to read more. However, the news articles themselves are poorly written with the clear intention of scaremongering. The Independent online article reads: “Health inspectorate expressed serious concerns about the way it might respond to terrorism and other mass-casualty emergencies” in the first few sentences. Scroll down the page and you’ll read: “Inspectors also noted that the trust had a major incident plan to ensure that the trust was capable of responding to major incidents on any scale in a way that delivered optimum care and assistance to the victims”. They pointed to “appropriate special contingencies for dealing with acts of aggression such as improvised explosive devices, aircraft incidents and public disorder”. Now to me, that seems as if the journalist of the article is inappropriately twisting the facts and figures in order to garner attention.
Despite the doom and gloom nature of the CQC report, rest assured: LAS certainly knows what to do and how to respond. “The reports says that some of the Service’s vehicles are not up to standard but it has recently invested £14m on 104 new ambulances to reduce break downs which result in vehicles being out of service. And the Service is expecting 60 new fast response cars to be delivered by March 2016” - LAS website. Furthermore, LAS have taken on 167 additional frontline staff since June.
I am strongly against the media’s portrayal of the service which reads as if they want to cause distress and panic amongst the public. London Ambulance Service can respond appropriately to a Paris-style attack, they do have the resources available and more than 80 paramedics have specialist training to work in dangerous and unique circumstances. It is a world class service that has been degraded by the government and the media and not enough light is shed upon the thousands of outstanding clinicians that work tirelessly every day and night. LAS has received almost 1000 letters of personal thanks from friends and family of people attended. Why has this not been published on BBC News?
My final thoughts are that I am proud to be studying Paramedic Science and cannot wait to go into work as a healthcare professional. Regardless of what the media broadcast, it will not change my opinion of the service and morale shall remain high, especially when I’m in there!
Thank you all for reading this and please feel free to share.
Alex Grant is a student paramedic at Anglia Ruskin University and for the London Ambulance Service. You can follow him on Twitter @alexgrant947