2016! Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

Just over a year ago today I wrote the following in a post on this Blog with the title ‘Dear Santa…Help!

“There is no truth in the rumour that London ambulances are having their sirens removed to be replaced by the Beatles song Help! being played through loudspeakers!

London Ambulance Service needs help. The capital’s Ambulance Service can’t cope on its own. It pains me to even write that. How have we got to this state?

Our front door has been thrown wide open.

Private Company? Come in, you’re welcome.

Voluntary Organisation? Come in, you’re welcome.

Australian? Come over, you’re welcome.

Interim Director? Come in, you’re welcome.

Unfortunately the back door is also open and staff are walking out of it.

In a Blog post that I wrote on 13th February 2013* entitled ‘Don’t Blame The Staff’ I started it by boasting “I work for the best Ambulance Service in Britain!”

Just a year and ten months later I don’t believe that I could look anyone in the eye and say the same thing! I was telling the truth then and my heart was positive. I am telling the truth now and my heart is sinking.

I work with the best ambulance staff in Britain in my view, there is no doubt about that, but I do not work for the best Service anymore.”

(*Checking back it was 13th May 2013 and not February.)

So in just under three years we have seen our Service plummet. We have seen a Chief Executive go. We have had two bad Staff Surveys, a damning Bullying & Harassment report (although Unison has questioned its quality and methodology) and to add insult to injury, a Care Quality Commission (CQC) investigation which found the London Ambulance Service ‘inadequate’ overall!

Inadequate! Dictionary translations include deficient, incapable and incompetent!

This is a Service that still displays with pride citations signed by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, congratulating us for the remarkable job staff did on the day of the London bombings.

This is a Service that still attends the anniversary of the Kings Cross fire because of what we did on that dreadful day. This is a Service etc etc…I could go on and on recounting the many achievements, many lives saved, many brave actions and many outstanding things that we, as an Ambulance Service, have done for the people of London.

My point is not just to show how far we have fallen, or how much it hurts staff to be tarnished with that fall, but to remind staff of what we are losing if we just carry on putting up with the way things are.

Can anyone, hand on heart say that our Service has changed significantly over those three years? Can anyone, hand on heart say that things have got better? Can anyone, hand on heart say that staff in their office/department/workplace/station, stand and applaud upon hearing that another Interim Director has been appointed?

Interim Directors are not the catalyst for change! Staff are the catalyst for change! Or more to the point, the Terms and Conditions of staff are the catalyst for change!

Acknowledging individual members of staff for the work they do is always a good thing of course, and recognition programs have their place in all organisations, but, used against a backdrop of Service failure and the CQC rating for Leadership within the LAS (Three ‘inadequate’ and two ‘requires improvement’ out of the five areas investigated, with an overall rating of ‘inadequate’) they are a diversion away from the real issues.

And the real issue is that Senior Management are too busy running an Ambulance Service to run an Ambulance Service! 

Staff’s real issues over pay and Terms & Conditions are seen as an irritant. A speck of dust interrupting the smooth machine-like churning out of restructures, statistics, interim director appointments and Team-Talk topics.

The request for LAS Paramedics to be put into Agenda for Change Pay Band 6 for example, is brushed away with a subconscious tut!

UNISON has been part of every major change within this Service going back many years. Real change. Good change. Sometimes we have had to bring our members with us, and sometimes our members have had to drag us with them! Either way, we get there together!

2015 has been a bad year for our Service. Our staff and members however, have responded to everything that has been asked of them.  This is a fact borne out by the CQC.

UNISON, in one aspect, has had a good year. We have recruited more new members than ever before. We are recruiting because staff understand our message. Staff also understand that in the midst of changes to Chief Executives and Directors, changes to Corporate messages and visions, changes to policy and instructions, changes to management speak and theories of communication, their job stays the same! Hard! Overworked and underpaid.

Staff are also joining us because they know that in 2016 they will not put up with 2015 all over again. Things need to change!

Terms & Conditions of staff are the catalyst for that change.

Some in Management don’t want to hear this, but, sooner or later, the penny will drop.  

I really hope that the last and 50th ‘Face of the Service’ is Fionna (CEO) stating that it was on her watch that true partnership between the LAS and the Union was reinvigorated and that together we changed our Service and properly rewarded staff through their salary. What a day that would be!

Reclaim our Service.

Support your union.

Until Victory, always!



Congratulations to Dave Prentis, re-elected to UNISON General Secretary. LAS UNISON nominated and supported Dave. Thank you to those members who voted in the election.


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We are stronger together.

Eric Roberts

Branch Secretary