How the right consultant fixed ACT’s ambulance service

When the ACT Ambulance Service needed a plan for serious reform, its Tasmanian counterpart’s highly respected former CEO was just the man for the job.

The ACT government had a good news story last week: Australia’s best ambulance response times. How it achieved it is a story that started in 2009 and owes much to a Tasmanian.

A new consultant’s report confirmed “major improvements in the structure, governance and performance of the ACT Ambulance Service” had flowed from a funding boost of $35 million since the 2011 budget, Emergency Services Minister Simon Corbell announced. Among the achievements, according to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services in January:

  • The best priority one response times at the 90th percentile of any capital city in Australia;
  • A reduction in ambulance attrition level from 10% per annum — the worst of all Australian ambulance services — to 2.6%, far below the national average rate, and;
  • Overall patient satisfaction increased from 96% to 98% and paramedic attitude has increased from 97% to 99%.

Back in 2009, the territory’s auditor-general found “significant scope” for improvement, particularly in response times, clinical governance and non-emergency transport. In addition, “ambulance data was not appropriately collected and analysed”, making it difficult for ACTAS to know how to improve or explain its needs to government.

Grant Lennox retired after 15 years as CEO of the Tasmanian Ambulance Service two months before the frank ACT audit. The government brought him on as a consultant, he began a thorough review and delivered sweeping recommendations by April. His report assured the service was “a long way” from crisis, but identified a number of challenges.

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