A specilialist paramedic called to the London Bridge terror attack and Grenfell Tower fire today said that the London Ambulance Service was better prepared to deal with major incidents.
Gemma Taylor, 31, said there had been “significant improvements” in the LAS’s ability to deal with such events since inspectors rated it “inadequate” two years ago amid concerns about its resilience.
She spoke as the LAS’s official rating from the Care Quality Commission was upgraded to “requires improvement” and it was rated “outstanding” for the care provided to patients.
Ms Taylor, a member of the Hazardous Area Response Team, told the Standard: “Within these two years I have seen some significant improvements, which I think have all positively impacted on our patient care.
“We have got more staff on the ground. Our response times have improved. We all feel ready, especially as we have got more experience of these events.
“These were incidents which I hoped I would never have to face. I think everybody who had to face them has responded well. Training does prepare us well for these type of incidents.”
The CQC report said there were now 89 members of the HART team, allowing 99 per cent of shifts to be filled, compared to 24 per cent in 2015. The team’s task is to get immediate medical care to patients trapped in hazardous locations, from terror attacks to people under trains, in water or at height.
Ms Taylor added: “It can be a really testing job – these types of incidents affect everyone who is involved. But we do this job because ultimately we want to help patients and their families and I’m incredibly proud of what I do.”
LAS chairman Heather Lawrence said: “The HART team are outstanding. They practice regularly. They are ready to go.
“As the nation witnessed during recent events in London, ambulance staff are always ready to respond in often very difficult circumstances. We are pleased CQC has recognised the outstanding care we provide, as well as many other improvements.”
Concerns were raised about ambulances “stacking” outside A&E departments, due to delays in hospitals admitting patients, and the failure to meet national response time targets.
However, since April the LAS has been the best performing ambulance trust in the country, reaching 73 per cent of the sickest patients within eight minutes – the target is 75 per cent.
The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: “The events of the last few months have underlined what a crucial service London Ambulance provide to the capital, and how hard its staff work to deliver this service – sometimes in unimaginably difficult conditions.
“Overall, the trust has made sustained progress since our last inspection, including significant improvements in emergency preparedness resilience and response.”
NHS Improvement, which oversees the LAS, said it had proved its excellence in its response to the Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Finsbury Park attacks and Grenfell fire, and was likely to emerge from “special measure” by the end of the year.
Kathy McLean, executive medical director at NHS Improvement, said: “They should be rightly proud of what they’ve achieved. Londoners owe them a debt of gratitude.”