I know that the ambulance service is being used as a substitute GP service these days, but it really takes the biscuit sometimes. Take, for example, the job I was sent on last night. It came down to our ambulance as “Patient wants to kill his doctor”.
I immediately called up Control on the radio and asked if we were being sent because they couldn't find the patient's GP? Although I was half joking, I wondered what good we could do for the patient.
Control got back to us, and let us know that they were indeed sending the police, and that we should wait until they turn up. However, when we arrived at the address we knew who the patient was – so we cancelled the police and sorted out the patients problem.
I mention this if only because, when I got back on station and read the local newspaper, I found a story about a coroners investigation into the death of a 55 year old female who had taken a fatal overdose of blood pressure medication. When Control asked if she was violent, they were told that yes, the patient was violent. The police were called and the crew waited at a rendezvous point for half an hour until the police turned up. By then it was too late, and the patient died.
Once more, the paper blames the ambulance crew, it doesn't blame the psychiatric services who discharged her a few weeks earlier after a failed suicide attempt. Nor does it blame the person who made the phone call that said that the patient was violent. Violence from the drunks, druggies and criminals doesn't worry me – the job that worries me, is the little old lady, who has become confused and is sitting in her living room with her husband's service revolver, or her favourite kitchen knife, desperate to stop the strange men in green from stealing her away in the night.
Instead, it blames the crew who, quite rightly, waited for the police. If one of the crew had been stabbed to death, it might be a more sympathetic headline. We are expected to go into people's houses, where we have been told that the patient is violent, where we could get assaulted or even killed – but as soon as we start thinking about our own safety, we are the ones to blame for anything that goes wrong with that patient.
As normal the ambulance service has investigated, but in a show of support for it's road staff, has stated that the policy of waiting for the police at a rendezvous point is the correct thing to do.
We aren't cowards, but we also aren't stupid/paid enough to wander into dangerous situations.