The paramedics and London Ambulance Service team deserve our heartfelt praise for how they dealt with a system crash on New Year Eve. Perhaps one of the most important IT systems in the country, belonging to the busiest ambulance service in the UK, the London Ambulance Service relies heavily on its IT system to save lives. When every minute counts to a patient’s chance of survival, speed of information and response times matters. So when you’re without critical IT system for almost 5 hours on one of the busiest nights of the year – New Years Eve – what can you do?

The London Ambulance Service were testament to how to cope with such a conundrum, pulling together and using common sense and sheer determination to treat 162 patients between the hours of 00:30 and 05:15. They went back to basics, using pen and paper to log calls and radios to update the control centre on ambulance locations as the real-time web mapping solution failed in the crash. Prior training for such a situation paid off, and with a stroke of luck there were no life-threatening scenarios, meaning every patient was successfully treated despite longer waits that normal for an ambulance.

But behind the scenes there are questions that will be investigated. Why is the system, which costs so much money, not fail-safe and what more can be done to prevent this from happening in the future? Next time the outcome may not be so positive. All this will be under debate. The answer of course may be in a team that can better protect the LAS’s IT availability, and guarantee continuity of service. This isn’t the first time for the LAS either, when in 1992 their new computer aided dispatch system failed

For now though, let’s not dwell on the past and instead congratulate a team that continues to protect us despite taking some knocks along the way.