Same Old Story

I came across this story on the BBC news website,
A Cambridge University student dialled 999 for an ambulance as she needed some painkillers, according to paramedics.

The 19-year-old student was said to have run out of her pain relief tablets which she needed for period pains.

East Anglian Ambulance Service said an emergency crew was called to the student's flat on Saturday afternoon.

The spokesman added: “It should be obvious to anyone that if you want some paracetamol, an emergency ambulance is not the place to get it from. For someone who is supposed to be intelligent you would think would have more common sense than to dial 999 for some pain relief”.

The call came through at about 1640 BST from King's Parade, Cambridge, and sparked a full blue-light response from the ambulance service.

I was curious as to how this counts as national news, when it happens to us all the time. My first thoughts when I looked at the story was “So what?”, but then I realised that although Ambulance Trusts keep trying media campaigns to cut down on inappropriate calls, most folks are still surprised by the reasons why we are called out.

This call is the sort of thing I get called to once or twice a day, multiply that by the 10 ambulances we have in our complex during the day and you get at least 10-20 “inappropriate calls”.

Every day…

I was writing this post at work, so let me tell you about the calls that interrupted my writing,

1) Small child with a minor cut to the head, lives 200 yards from the A&E department.

2) Woman with painful teeth – for the past week.

3) Hoax call, a child phoned up from the Mosque and told us that someone had been stabbed.

4) A drunk who had fallen asleep on the bus, we woke him up and he wandered off on his own accord.

5) The one 'proper' job – an alcoholic who had a fit (related to his alcoholism).

Still, I suppose that it meant that I had an easy seven hour shift (the first of seven such shifts, so I'll be lucky if they are all like this one)

15 thoughts on “Same Old Story”

  1. I was first-aiding one night at a club and we had a girl who'd eaten a hash cake without knowing and she was hysterical and hyperventilating. I had to call an ambulance because nowhere on the premises did we have a paper bag. I'm really, really sorry.

  2. More to the point, why not just have a 250 fee for calling 999 when it's not needed?Hoax calls, painkiller calls etc. would soon thin out, I think. And if it's only charged to the people who wrongly use the system, it doesn't put out the old etc or worry them about being charged.

  3. Why the great fear having to pay something for everything? Why is it wrong to pay a nominal ammount each time we access the system? We can even exclude vulnerable people, such as children and OAPs, from having to pay, though personally I think there is some value in giving people greater 'ownership' of their health by charging them something.I certainly don't see it as the start of the slippery slope to a fully privatised healthcare system. It will still be funded by direct taxation. You can't compare a bill for tens of thousands of pounds for injuries sustained in a traffic accident, including a month on Intensive care, on one hand, with a bill for 15 for calling an ambulance on the other. In fact, certainly until the last few years, you would get billed for calling an ambulance for an RTA even in the UK.

    I'm a diet controlled diabetic. I get a prescription for blood testing strips to measure the sugar in my blood. If I was on medication I would get them free. As I'm not I have to pay the prescription charge of (I think) 6.40. Often I'm asked by the pharmacist why I'm paying if I'm a diabetic. When I explain they always seem to feel it's unfair and clearly expect me to feel the same. The costs of the strips come to 60, and I pay 6.40. To be honest I think I get a bloody good deal.

    All I'm suggesting is that many of the problems of the NHS come from a 'something for nothing' mentality. We don't feel we've paid for the NHS, because it's paid for out of our general taxation, and we've been made to feel that it's a 'human right' to get free health care when ever we need it. We even despise overseas health care systems which don't recognise this 'human right', even when they actually deliver better health care than the Nash. We use the bogeyman of America anytime anybody suggests any fees at all, forgetting that most European countries maintain mixed healthcare systems which provide a better model for reform.


  4. I just knew that for an A level one should read X: Regurgitating the book is not the recipe for an IQ. dah ! If ye comes and breath analyze me and give an aspro, is it free [that is if I be down Mile end Road] or do you charge me a hundred bucks like they do me, as I be an AOP[yankystyle] when they come to check me vitals with b***** light.dungbeetle

  5. Yes.I have to transport everyone who calls me into hospital. The only time I can refuse is if the patient is abusive towards me.

    We do however, tend to persuade people not to travel if they have a very minor complaint. But the patient can always insist.

    One of the bad things about A&E's hitting the '4 hours or less' waiting time target, is you can't take thes idiots into A&E, knowing that they will be waiting for 8 hours…

  6. Thanks for the answer, my interest in moving to the UK (and probably London and the LAS) decreases by the minute when I hear this.

  7. Depending on where you live, I wouldn't move to London…I can see why our bosses made up this policy (it's easier to transport everyone, rather than leave someone at home where they die, and then watch the lawsuites come flying in), but sometimes it is only 'common sense' (not all that common these days I'm afraid…)

    Also the policy dates back to the “good ole days” when people didn't call ambulances for crap.

  8. Why doesn't the 999 operator have a list of all night chemists/ emergency dentists etc to give out to people like that ?

  9. What do you think of the idea of charging, say, 15 for each ambulance call. Not payable at the time. Small enough not to deter anybody genuinely needing an ambulance, and possibly even excluding children and OAPs (who i suspect aren't the problem)My own view is that until we start charging something to people they will continue taking this service for granted and abusing it. As an ex A&E nurse I'd certainly charge time wasters for wasting our time)

  10. They aren't mutually contradictory responses so I wouldn't disagree with you, although I have a slight fear that the people who would worry most that they might be fined 250 would be the people who would have been using the system properly; elderly people with genuine health problems and low income.I just think we have to move away from a healthcare system which teaches us that we are entitled to free access to health care when ever we want it. Charging us a nonimal ammount every time we access the system would reinforce the idea that our health is our responsibility. Like most people I pay a lot of money each year to insure myself on the road. The fact that we all pay an excess when we claim is the only reason the premiums are as low as they are. How much would the NHS save if we all had to think a little harder before accessing it? How much further would the resources go?


  11. Is that old saw about NHS ” I want an abortion” “Yes you can get it free, Sorry ye have to wait 10 mths, as it is an. elected procedure ” still hold true. Just askin? dungbeetle

  12. I agree that some form of charging should be introduced – however, the flipside of the “15 per callout” would be the potential for it to open the doors on an “everything is chargeable” policy, similar to the US, which then also leaves certain groups at risk and afraid to call an ambulance. And, as always, those certain groups can be the ones most in need.I'm trying to figure out a reasonable way of also assessing whether a call should be chargeable on the “250 per wasted callout” theme – the call-takers won't be in a position to do the assessment, and the most logical choice would be the drivers/paramedics themselves. However, if one has had a bad day, would there be a possibility of saying “you're wasting my time. 250 please”? I suppose an appeals process would need to be put in place in case of events like that.

    All things considered, both ways need more thought – I'd rather still have access to free healthcare and be fined if I'd called up for no good reason, rather than paying for each occasion, but that's because I really don't want to see the UK adopting the US healthcare model when it comes to paying for everything. (And, US readers, if I've made any sweeping (and wrong) assumptions in that, then I apologise now)

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