The LASCAD Project: A Failed Implementation or a Way of Understanding the Present?

Kathy McGrath
University College Northampton, Moulton Park, Northampton, NN2 7AL and London School of Economics Houghton Street, London WC2 2AE email:


This paper examines the London Ambulance Service Computer Aided Dispatch (LASCAD) project, in the context of changes in the health service sector since 1992. The paper presents two accounts. The first draws on the official inquiry report into LASCAD and gives an account of the project using a multiple perspective framework for analyzing decision-making. Like earlier studies of the project that have reconstructed the past so that we may achieve a better understanding of what happened then, it presents LASCAD as a systems implementation that failed for a number of reasons. In this way, the first account supports many of the conclusions reached by earlier studies. The second account provides an alternative reading. It revisits LASCAD in the light of information about the current situation in the ambulance services sector. It seeks a historical understanding, prompted not by an interest in the past and a wish to explain it, but by a desire to understand and respond to the present. The argument being made is that, while reconstructing the past produces interesting and useful results, understanding the present by looking for its traces in the past in potentially more action-oriented.


systems implementation, technology failure, decision-making, historical understanding.

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