As the London ambulance Service doesn't have an ambulance station on every street, and given the state of London's roads and traffic, we find ourselves going out on 'Standby'.
Essentially ambulances crews, and RRU cars are told to drive away from the station (with its heating, toilets and tea making facilities) and sit in public roads to help cover a wider area. The idea is that because the 'resources' are spread out over a wider area you will be able to get to calls quicker, thus improving our all important response time.
Crews don't like going out on standby – but I doubt anyone would like sitting in an ambulance cab waiting for someone to be ill/injured/drunk. Management like crews being put out on standby because it apparently improves response times, which pleases the government.
The standby points are chosen to be reasonably far away from station, around three miles in my case, and in an area where there is a reasonable expectation for there to be a high number of calls.
They also try to place you where a number of major road routes meet, so you can rapidly make your way out of your area to cover the shortfall in other sectors…
There are limits to how standby can be used – you can only be put on standby for twenty minutes at a time, and you can only be put on standby between the hours of 8am and 8pm, so while it is unpleasant to be put on standby, it isn't the complete torture that it could be.
On the RRU there is another ruling – that they can't spend longer than 30 minutes on station, so although I had five jobs over the space of twelve hours yesterday, I spent very little time actually on station. Most of my time was spent sitting behind Stratford shopping centre with the engine running so that I didn't freeze to death. When I got bored with that, I would roam the area, essentially looking for some trouble.
It is a fair assumption that it takes half an hour to do one job, from activation to being ready for the next job – so I was only actually working for two and a half hours, for and hour and a half I was on station, leaving me sitting in the car for eight hours.