The London Ambulance Service Despatching System
Case studies
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London Ambulance
SE 8 Web


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 in teaching

I supplement the material in the book in a course I teach on critical systems with additional material focusing on security and human/organisational factors. 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.

Related chapters

Chapter 2: Socio-technical systems

Supporting documents

Human and organisational issues

My slides giving an overview of human and organisational issues as they affect critical systems. Download the PDF version of the slides from here.

Overview of the LAS failure

My Powerpoint presentation giving an overview of the problem. Download the PDF version of the slides from here.

Report on the LAS failure

A post-mortem report on the causes of the failure of the LAS system.