The London Ambulance Computer-Aided Despatch System

The London Ambulance Service introduced a new computer-aided despatch system in 1992 which was intended to automate the system that despatched ambulances in response to calls from the public and the emergency services. This new system was extremely inefficient and ambulance response times increased markedly. Shortly after its introduction, it failed completely and LAS reverted to the previous manual system. The systems failure was not just due to technical issues but to a failure to consider human and organisational factors in the design of the system.

Use of this case study in teaching

I use this case study in a discussion of human factors as an illustration of how procurement, human and organisational issues can be major contributors to system failure. It supports the material in Chapter 10: Socio-technical systems.

Supporting documents

The London Ambulance Service (Wikipedia)

An overview of the case study (PPTX)

Overview of the LASCAD report (PDF)

A report of the official enquiry into the system failure (PDF)

A paper that presents the failure as a case of administrative evil. (Link to ACM Digital Library). Rather a strange perspective in my opinion.

An insiders report (Link to external site: not maintained)