Wednesday, November 23, 2005

BBC: 7/7 The Day The Bombs Came

You may have seen on the television last week the above programme.

Myself and colleagues within the LAS are disappointed, upset and angry that the programme did not recognise the efforts made by my colleagues on that day.

Not one person from the LAS was shown being interviewed, despite several interviews having taken place. Many interviewees had never even spoken to a stranger about what happened on that day, let alone on camera, and some understandably found the experience very stressful to put it mildly.

The LAS has written a letter of complaint to the BBC, and I include it here:

BBC documentary: ‘7/7 the day the bombs came’

Further to the preview screening of ‘7/7 the day the bombs came’ and your telephone conversation earlier this week with my Head of Communications, I wanted to express in writing our deep disappointment at the decision to omit the London Ambulance Service from your imminent documentary.

We appreciate that you had a lot of material to work with, and that it was only at the last minute that you decided to drop an interview with a member of our staff because you had the opportunity to speak to one of the survivors of 7 July; however, it is baffling that a high-profile BBC documentary about the emergency services’ response includes no interviews whatsoever with personnel from one of the key responding agencies.

The London Ambulance Service – the largest and busiest ambulance service in the world -played a vital role on 7 July. Many of our staff witnessed the harrowing impact of the explosions first-hand. They did an excellent job in providing medical care to hundreds of patients, some withatrocious injuries, and there is no doubt that their professionalism and dedication saved many lives.

Of course, the Service could not have responded so well alone. It was the joint efforts of theemergency services, the London Underground and members of the public that ensured the smooth management of these incidents. However, the London Ambulance Service had a uniquerole at this terrible event, being the only emergency service with comprehensive medical skills and a duty of care to patients. Our partners play a key role in helping us to provide this care butthey cannot deliver it themselves.

By not telling our side of the story you overlook a significant part of the 7 July rescue effort. The triage of patients was undertaken by the London Ambulance Service, the removal of many patients by the police and fire brigade was overseen by our clinically trained staff. Ultimately, the saving of patients’ lives was orchestrated entirely by experts from our Service, albeit with the crucial support of our partners.

We have worked closely with you over recent months and have tried to meet all of your requests no matter how difficult or time-consuming. During the early stages of production, we identified staff for your research needs, we then gave you access to these staff for interview. For many of these people it was the first time that they had discussed their experiences to a stranger, let alone on camera. These individuals are not media-trained and gave you the best account they could in the circumstances. The callous decision to cut them entirely from the programme will no doubt damage their trust in our department and the BBC.

On no occasion did you indicate that these interviews would not be strong enough to make the final edit. Had you done so, my team would have made every effort to provide and coach more staff for interview and would have had time to ‘let down’ sensitively those whose accounts would not be included. The staff who have been cut will no doubt have told colleagues and friends that they are due to appear and I feel sure will have been very proud to have represented the Service in this way.

Many of our other 4000 staff will watch this programme, and I know that they too will be deeply hurt and extremely disappointed (I do not exaggerate) to find that the Service is not featured. We will almost certainly be asked why this is the case, with some people’s initial reactions being that my team has not done its job in getting the Service involved.

It is frustrating for members of the communications team, who went out of their way to help you. On this occasion, I think we gave you more material than others, particularly regarding facts and figures. Furthermore, this is not the first occasion that the same production team has let us down. On 8 July, under extreme operational and media pressure, we spent an entire day taking staff off duty to film for a Panorama documentary that did not materialise, providing hours of footage that was later lost.

We appreciate that your story has been shaped as the interviews have unfolded and that much of the finished programme focuses on the scene of the King’s Cross and Russell Square train. However, if we had been told this, we would have been more than happy to find more interviewees and accommodate any further needs. With the time already invested with your team and the relationship formed during the filming of both programmes it should have been clear that we would do all that we could to help.

Our relationship with the BBC is mutually valuable, and by not co-operating in the future it would do both of us a disservice. But if we are to work together again I would urge that more thought be given to what you really need from us and more confidence be shown in our ability to help you, so we are not left feeling aggrieved again."

The BBC has sent this reply to the service:

"I completely agree with you on the magnificent work done by the LAS on the 7th July and the importance of the work done by members of your organisation to help save as many lives as possible. I understand that many of your staff had very harrowing experiences and were faced with dealing with people who had the most appalling injuries and salute their professionalism and dedication.

It would never be possible for our film to feature interviews with every agency that formed part of the response to the July 7th attacks without it having a serious impact on the power of the story we are telling. Whilst the interviewees in the film may not be from the LAS a large proportion of the visual images in the film is dominated by LAS staff and equipment and it is our belief that most of the public see the efforts of the emergency services that day, not in terms of the individual agencies but as a whole.

It was always our intention that our film would serve as a tribute to the Emergency services as a whole although I am acutely aware of the sensitivities of your staff and the feeling that in some way the LAS has been overlooked. However we feel that the film will only increase the feelings of pride and honour that the general public and Londoners in particular, have in their emergency services and will see, as we do, the testimony that we feature as symbolic of the work done by every member of each of the emergency services on that day in July."

Personally, I think the response of the BBC to be almost insulting. They should hang their heads in shame.

We don't want people to say "Oh you are such heros". We just want the recognition that is deserved of the staff that were there on the day and did the service proud. I and many others were proud to say that day, "We work for the London Ambulance Service".

2 Comments:

Anonymous Jennie said...

I watched it fully expecting to see LAS personnel giving accounts of their experiences, and was surprised and disappointed that they weren’t included. The BBC’s response is more than a little insulting, and it is a shame they didn’t have the decency to hold there hands up and admit they were wrong. I’m also surprised they didn’t use the excuse that they made a special edition of Trauma (Trauma London, I think), and this is why they didn’t show any interviews with ambulance staff.

They did such a good job with Trauma ( I don’t know if it’s the same production team, probably not), you would have thought they would have been more inclined to include interviews with the LAS, even if it were only with one member of the service.

At the end of the programme, I was convinced they hadn’t even bothered to interview any LAS staff, and I’m sure many other people would think the same. I only hope that it doesn’t have an adverse affect on Trauma, a show I find very interesting and informative as I want to join the ambulance service and have found it a great insight into a little of what you guys do and gives me a small idea of just what is expected of you.

10:18 am  
Blogger MuppetLord said...

You may not have been referred to, but the London Ambulance Service can be proud of the job done on that day.

Stuff the BBC, the rest of us appreciate the work that you do.

3:04 pm  

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