Essential, Not Emergency

One of the bizarre things about the Ambulance Service is that, in the eyes of the government, we are an “essential” service but not an “emergency” service. We are “essential” because the emergency services (Police, Fire Brigade, Coastguard) are run by the Home office – Ambulance services across the country are run by NHS trusts, and as such do not have access to the same resources as the true “emergency” services. The distinction is often slight, but can sometimes have quite important considerations for our safety.
Last night was a case in point – we were called to a patient with abdominal pain, however further information was given that the patient could be violent. There was something in this information that triggered my “spider-sense”, so I was happy to wait for police assistance to arrive before approaching the house.

Four police turned up, normally only two are sent to assist us – and they told us that their computer system, and their personal experience with the householder showed him as a nasty piece of work. We followed the police to the patient and they told him that they were going to search him, and that they wanted to put him in handcuffs first. The patient had obviously been involved with the police before, as once he was handcuffed they checked to see if he had any new warrants out for his arrest…

Searching him they found a large stick, and a rather worrying looking (5″) knife on his person.

All through this the “lady” of the house was shouting abuse, mainly at the patient, but occasionally at the police officers present. One quick examination later showed nothing life-threatening, so we offered a trip to hospital that the patient accepted. However as we left the house the woman shouted a few final obscenities at the patient and he told us he couldn't be bothered to go to hospital and stalked off into the night. (This was not a problem for either my crewmate or myself).

Police computers had information that he was dangerous (a number of rather vicious assaults) but our computers aren't allowed to have such data. A police dispatcher has told us that they have all sorts of information on addresses, from animal liberation protesters to members of Parliament. Again our computers don't have any information of that sort unless we enter it manually after an ambulance crew has been threatened/assaulted.

Needless to say, one such report has been sent to central office.

Tonight was exceptionally foggy, and while we were kept busy, the only job of any real note was when we stumbled across an RTA, where the driver had swerved into a fence at approx 40mph. He was rummaging in the wreckage when we found him, and refused to be assessed. The last we saw was him rapidly disappearing over the horizon. The police were not amused – but (surprisingly for our area) it looks like the car actually belongs to him. So now he'll be summoned for leaving the scene of an accident, as well as any other driving offences the police decide to throw at him.

5 thoughts on “Essential, Not Emergency”

  1. Interesting. We have the same problem here about not being able to access past address histories. I have become quite familiar with standing by and calling the police to clear a scene if as you said my “spider-sense” gets riled.The best we can do is “flag” the address in our system, but even then it doesn't really keep a history.

  2. A couple of aspects of the status of the Ambulance Service as 'essential' rather than 'emergency' came up at UNISON's health conference last month, where I was a delegate. One is the problem of blue lighting – ambulance crews aren't immune from prosecution for going through red lights and so on, because that privilege is reserved for the emergency services. The other is about insurance, which is now the responsibility of individual Ambulance Trusts, instead of being covered by the state, in the way that emergency services are. Turns out that in at least one case, the Ambulance Trust was relying on patients' home insurance to pay out if someone was injured in someone's house, until a paramedic damaged her back and discovered that the patient in question wasn't insured… and the Trust said, “neither were we”! I confess that I didn't understand the details, not being an ambulance worker, but it sounded like a right mess.All that is by way of saying, hi! – cos I've only just found your blog, thanks to a link from Norm Geras.


    Nick /

  3. We do the same, we can Flag addresses, but it doesn't always work, and we can't flag more detailed cases – like psychiatric history, or violent towards women, or hates Blacks.

  4. We do actually have a list of “exemptions” when on blue lights which include traeting red lights as a Give Way, and that on emergencies we can ignore speed restrictions, drive on the wrong side of the road etc… It depends on where in the country you are though, I've heard from some county trusts that they have different exemptions.As for insurance – I have no idea…

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