Getting Lost

Ambulance 'loses way' to hospital

Ambulance drivers are to get additional training after a vehicle got lost as it was taking a woman to hospital, who later died.In a statement East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said: “During the journey… the ambulance satellite navigation system failed and the driver, who usually operates in the Skegness area, took a wrong turn.

“This was realised and the crew member in the rear of the vehicle, who was familiar with the area, was able to direct the driver back on cours

I rely on the Sat-nav system on my ambulance – not so much if I'm working in my area, but if I'm elsewhere in London then I'm like a fish out of water.

Strange hospitals are the worst as I keep circling the area trying to find the A&E department.

If I do a transfer to a hospital outside of East London, there is then a big chance that I'll get another job in the area. I don't have 'the knowledge' so end up following the sat-nav or relying on one of our mapbooks.

This is a tragedy, but despite this it is a bit of a non-story in my opinion, someone from outside of the area took a wrong turn, it was corrected and they found the hospital. That the father of the patient reached the hospital 15 minutes earlier isn't unusual – I'm often beaten to hospital by relatives 'following' in the car, partly because we do various things before we leave the scene and partly because I don't drive like a loon with a patient in the back. Ambulances have different handling to cars and so we'll often drive slower.

If someone could tell me how 'better trained' can be implemented in order to make sure that when driving in an unusual area with a failed navigation system the driver never takes a wrong turn I'm sure every service in the country would be grateful.

And yes, I've taken a wrong turn or two myself and had to rely on the experience and knowledge of my partner to help me out, and I've done the same for people who have worked with me. It's why a good ambulance crew is a team.

And not being able to find a place can be one of the worse things that happens to you – as this example from the archives shows.

I got a job, '14 month child, floppy and lifeless'.

The address was given as 'Flat 1, Rose house, Starling road'.

I sped up and down the road. I spotted some of the names of the flats in tiny writing, on little blue plaques many of them pointing away from the road. My pulse started to rise. It had taken me four minutes to reach the area, but how much longer would it take me to locate the potentially very sick child?

I found 'Lilac House', 'Lily House' and 'Tulip House', but I couldn't find 'Rose House'.

Now I was starting to panic.

10 thoughts on “Getting Lost”

  1. I've had to take family members to the A&E dept of our local hospital a few times, and I remember the panic I felt the first time when trying to find the entrance around 1am. Most hospitals these days seem to be enormously sprawling campuses that cover multiple city blocks; some internal roads are dead ends, others are one way and the whole place looks like it has been laid out by a madman. It's easy to see why anyone that didn't know the area would get lost, and our streets are nowhere near as complicated as London.

  2. Tom's right. It's a non-story brought to us by a media that focuses on trivia while neglecting the substantial issues. Often, they don't even get the trivia right.On the other hand, be grateful. Articles such as that one have driven large numbers of people to rely on blogs like this for a more accurate view of what is happening in various fields. I gave up on the mainstream media (especially the BBC) years ago.

  3. Surely the better training required is that of the NHS bosses not cutting staff (and keeping them in ambulances rather than spreading them out in FRUs that can't transport to hospital…) so that drivers don't have to travel so much out of their area?

  4. I understand that the family are upset and need to grieve but to me it sounds like they want someone to blame.I once got the blame for a woman dying 3 days after being in hospital because she walked about 10 paces to the ambulance. Her house was so full of clutter we couldn't get a carry chair in (not that i'd have really wanted to as she must have been about 25 stone…. this was the days before ramps).

  5. I work in an area that is a 'New Town' of the 70's concrete variety. In the last week I have had 2 jobs where the awards the designers won for this area should be revoked.Job 1: We spent 10 minutes wondering around the estate searching for the address, the signage was useless and in the end we found out we were less than 2 minutes from the house! Th sat nav didn't have a scooby as it was pedestrianised so didn't help!

    Job 2: The houses had been built on the hill side, but down the way. To get to the address we bounded down 2 flights of wide stairs, the house is an 'upsidedown' house with the bedroom downstairs. Heavy CVA patient needed carrying up these stairs……………. town planners obviously didn't think of medical emergencies when designing!

  6. I had a patient in the backwoods once during a bike race. I went out in our ATV to get to her. Misdirection, and a lack of proper signage made my finding where she was incredibly difficult. Up one path, into a pasture to find a way over, double-backing, and then I finally found the correct path to take. But yes, the sweaty palm syndrome started. I knew she had a head injury and a possible c-spine injury. Every second *can* make a difference. It was going through my head over and over as I was looking for the way to get to her.I finally got there, and we got her treated and transferred, but it wasn't nearly as quick as it should have been, IMHO.

  7. Reminds me of the nurses taking the piss out of the Doc in the first aid post one Hogmanay. The doc was reading the new protocol for responding to cardic incidents when doing the doctor on call thing, the nurses helpfully added a few steps of their own.1) Pack defib (this one was actually on the list)

    2) Drive to address

    3) Stop and knock on door

    4) Apologise for knocking on wrong door


  8. Everyone loves to blame the ambulance guys because they think they can use us as their personal punching bags and get away with it.I once got blamed because a patient died FIVE DAYS after transport due to an anesthesia reaction in the OR. Apparently I was supposed to figure out that the gas passer working that day was a moron. The QI guy that came out to talk it over with me went home sick after he left our station. Apparently he didn't like that I refuted his suggestions and had one of my own.

  9. Whilst I agree it's pretty much a non-story, I spent 26 years of my life living in Lincolnshire. There aren't that many hospitals in the county, and any crew working in Mablethorpe should *really* know how to get to Grimsby hospital. There's only about four hospitals you would take anybody from Mablethorpe to anyway (Boston, Louth, Grimsby, Lincoln and possibly Hull).

  10. Sat-Nav is a great tool – when it works. It is not infallible. Local knowledge, whilst not infallible, is far more valuable. Crews all over the country are being sent further and further afield. Bosses say that stats require less full-blown ambulances and more Rapid Response Cars so's they can treat and refer. This means that in quieter areas crews are sent on stand-by. Move from one quiet area to a slightly less quiet area. This costs fuel, the environment and more mileage on all the vehicles concerned. In many areas of rural/sparsley populated Britain one ambulance can cover an area of approximately 1200 sq miles. NO KIDDING! Sometimes it is more. Mostly it is less but not by much! Not only that but mobile phones work intermittently as do radio systems. Stations have to put out pleas to their divisional offices for O/S maps when this should be the norm.More emergency ambulances, more RRVs and more crews. It's not hard to see.

    I don't mind where i am sent… not for me. But i do mind for poor Mrs Jones who's getting the first tweaks of cardiac problems and we're still 40 miles away. People in rural areas realise that facilities are not going to be as numerous as in urban areas but they quite rightly do expect a reasonable service rather than “you'll be lucky” or “then you should move”.

    I am sorry for the family concerned but they need to shout at management not the crew.

    Perhaps the public need to know how rock-bottom moral is in the ambulance service across the country. It's not the patients so much as the lack of decent management.

    'Scuse the rant. I am fed up of seeing stories that finger-point at crews.

    It's about time everyone learned about responsibility and true accountability.

    Crews will continue to get lost whilst they are expected to cover areas of which they have no personal knowledge and we can not be expected to know the ins and outs of every hospital that we might attend in the duration of our service.

    Quite frankly it's something of a miracle that there aren't more incidents documented

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