Plans to merge ambulance depots into hubs have been paused. 6/8/13 EL70943_2.

Cuts to the number of ambulance depots in London have been put on hold following a high number of 999 calls during 2021.

London Ambulance Service (LAS) boss Daniel Elkeles told a council health committee that increased pressures over the summer meant plans to reduce the number of ambulance sites had to be paused.

This has continued as health services help tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases. Mr Elkeles said staff were grateful for the postponement.

In a major structural shake-up, the LAS planned to replace 68 stations across London with 18 new ‘ambulance deployment centres’.

These would be supported by nearby ‘standby points’ and ‘rest and refreshment posts’, which the LAS said will stop staff ferrying to and from one station several times a day.

This model is used in other parts of the UK and, according to the LAS, will “get more ambulance crews out on the road faster and, in turn, improve the standard of care we provide to our patients across London”.

The first new London hub was set to be based in Dagenham in East London, merging stations from Romford, Ilford, Hornchurch and Becontree.

Mr Elkeles said it was important to complete the modernisation but that the delay would give the service time to get it right while it manages the current situation.

He said: “While we must upgrade our ageing estate because so much of it is not fit for purpose, we are now going to be able to keep using Romford ambulance station until 2023 at the earliest.

“This means we now have much more time to ensure we develop the best way forward to meet the needs of our patients, staff and volunteers.”

He added any changes will not affect any care offered to patients and members of the public will have the opportunity to give their opinion on any future developments.

Mr Elkeles reminded councillors in North West London that the decision means any specific plans for a hub in the area are still waiting to be developed.