LAS: Mid-Life Crisis!

The London Ambulance Service is 50 years old this month. In fact the 1st April marked the day (no jokes about April fool please!). It is fifty years since a number of smaller Services came together to form one unified Ambulance Service for the capital city.

The London Ambulance Service came into the world wide eyed and bushy tailed, innocent but full of hope.

We should be celebrating but like most 50 year olds, the LAS has a mid-life crisis!

I’m glad the Service has made it to fifty. I’m glad that a lot of positive press and social media stuff came out on the day and, yes, I’m glad that every staff member will get a commemorative badge (that will send badge collecters scurrying to eBay).

I’m disappointed though that the Union was not mentioned once throughout the day -except by me!

The Union has played a major part in the history of the London Ambulance Service, and particularly in the past twenty odd years.

It is not by magic that fifty years was reached. Or by luck. Or by good fortune. Or by good leadership.

Good leadership has played a part of course, but it is only when that leadership remembers that there are another two parts to the relationship: staff and their Trade Union.

The past twenty years has seen our Service grow. Grow in stature and grow in confidence. In the area of clinical excellence and patient care we have traveled a huge distance in such a short time.

We have traveled that road, as with all the roads we have traveled, in partnership.

With all its faults and critics – we have achieved more, reached further, got stronger and overcame obstacles, because we achieved, reached, gained strength and survived – in partnership.

Our Service moves forward when the Union and its members are respected.

Do you want proof of that?

In the last two years our Service went backwards. We lost staff and lost reputation.

A new management approach sowed discontent and reaped the worst staff survey ever! Sowed a Time for Change and reaped a mass of exit interviews.

Partnership was ditched early on as an old fashioned approach to industrial relations, out of place in the new world of Workforce Management and that great sleight of hand, Listening Into Action!

History lesson: The London Ambulance Service has survived in one piece because many years ago the Union, side by side with the then Chief Executive and Senior Managers, argued a joint case to save the LAS from being broken up (and given back to the Outer Counties Services whence it came) in front of a very anti London Ambulance committee of MPs in the House of Parliament. We won our argument.

New Senior Managers most probably don’t know that, or don’t care. Other managers around at the time may have forgotten.

The Union hasn’t forgotten. The modern London Ambulance Service was born that day. Since then we have had great times, rough times, bad times, shocking times, loving times and hating times.

We have experienced all this within a professional partnership. That’s the difference.

History lesson no.2: London Ambulance is unique. It is different from any other health organisation in London.

It is beyond comparison so don’t compare.

We have to shake ourselves out of this Mid-Life crisis.

We don’t need to buy a Harley-Davidson or find ourselves a younger partner (yet, anyway), just ditch Listening Into Action and get back to old fashioned Industrial Relations for a start! Oh, and don’t forget The London Package*!

* See earlier Blog postings.

Happy Birthday!


Information on all issues can be found elsewhere on our website.


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We are stronger together.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary.