Delayed Times

A couple of people have asked me to comment on the whole “delayed times” for activating ambulances that is in the news here in sunny England.
I'll write a proper piece on it when I get home, and can give it some proper thought.

If there is anyone in Control/CAC who wants to let me know their opinion, then feel free to drop me a line in the comments, or via email.

Confidentiality will be observed.

14 thoughts on “Delayed Times”

  1. news shmooze, the bottom line is it's cheaper to treat someone who's passed on than someone who's still kicking

  2. (From someone who works in control)I was rather surprised to read here that there's an average 4.5 minute delay before “starting the clock” — the “ambulance service spokesperson”'s figure of 83 seconds seems closer to what I would estimate. The “clock” starts after the call taker has been given the address and a brief description of what the problem is (“Not breathing” “Cut finger” “Decapitation” etc) — the call taker then goes on to ask all the questions about is he breathing normally and what part of the body is injured while the people on the dispatch desks send out an ambulance if they have one knocking around.

    Reasons why it might take four and a half minutes for the clock to get started:

    1) People not knowing their address. A minimum of a road name and postal area is needed to get a map reference and without a map reference the computer system can't send the call to an ambulance. If the person really doesn't know and can't find out, the call taker will then spend the next ten minutes scrabbling about in the back of a map book and/or ringing the police (who have a better, more expensive mapping system which includes names of shops and pubs) to track down where they are.

    2) Language barriers — getting an interpreter takes a while (depending on how awake Language Line are feeling) and don't even get me started on those people who insist they can speak English but blatently do not understand a word you are saying.

    3) People who do not let you get a word in edgeways and insist on telling you their entire life story before giving you the address.

    4) People who shout, in the style of Eastenders, “29 Albert Square! Get an ambulance here now!” and then hang up before telling you what is actually wrong. These people then have to be called back which takes time, especially if they continue telling you to “stop wasting time and send an ambulance”. I think these people think there is just one person working in CAC who takes the calls and after hanging up walks round to the ambulance station and knocks on the window of the ambulance to give them the details.

    5) Psychiatric patients who just want to spend half an hour telling you that they are Hitler and that ambulances are made of ice cream. We are not allowed to hang up on them unless they explicitly state that they do not want an ambulance and thus can spend hours listening to them ramble without ever giving an address and getting the clock started.

    Ways of solving these problems:

    1) A better computer system for finding addresses. One like the police have with shops and pubs listed would be very helpful. It would also be nice if you could use area names as well as postcodes (Walthamstow and Leyton instead of E17 and E10) and it would be wonderful if you could search for similar sounding road names and list all the roads of a particular name in London.

    2) General public should stop being rude and stupid.

    3) All members of ambulance control to become fluent in Punjabi, Arabic and Turkish.

    4) Eastenders scriptwriters to write script where Pauline rings for ambulance, gives address, says what is wrong and then speaks calmly and politely to person on other end of phone until it arrives.

  3. How about a public info film showing various scenarios were an ambulance is appropriate and not appropriate, and how to phone for one properly, and a few other bits like how to tell when someone is not breathing and what bleeding to death looks like as opposed to a paper cut. Reynolds could be in it, showing up to a sore throat and throttling the patient like homer strangling bart, and saying “YOU WANT A SORE THROAT? I'll GIVE YOU A SORE THROAT!”.ok maybe not.

    OR… it could be like the RSPCA/NSPCC adverts, with Reynolds holding his bruised knee and looking tearful while a voiceover goes “this E.M.T doesn't know when his next burger and cup of tea will come. And his knee is permenantly sore. Help him and others like him….”

    I think the heat is getting to me.

  4. 1) A better computer system, it's risible that your computer system is so bad, why don't you use the police one? Your requirements will be near as damit the same. It sounds like a typical government IT project, instead of looking at the information you're likely to get and designing a system to find an address from that (which from the sounds of it would be quite easy), they've developed a system to find an address, so the information you need to get is determined by the system behaviour, instead of human behaviour.2) Absolutely.

    3) British citizens and those residing in Britain should become fluent in English.

    4) An excellent idea (unlikely to be taken up).

  5. We can't get a better computer system because we don't get as much funding as the police. I forget what the exact figures are but they were given to us during training school and they get loads more than us, and their computer system cost about 10 million while ours cost about 2 million. (I also know someone who does the exact same job as me, but for the police, and he earns almost twice what I do. Pah.) It's not just the mapping bit of it that is crap, either — you wouldn't believe the hassle we have to go to to look up details of a previous call (when someone rings up saying “I called five minutes ago and it's not here yet. Her stomach ache is REALLY BAD!!” or trace where the ambulance is.

  6. I say they should expand Trauma to show the lovely people in the Control Room taking a call and sending out the ambulance. They did come into control once to film the HEMS desk and I kept on finding excuses to run up there in an attempt to get myself on TV, but they have never filmed any of the call takers or dispatchers. It might teach people how to ring for an ambulance properly!

  7. I know computer suppliers see government projects coming from a mile off, and the government is to blame for this. The obvoius point is that given you have 3 emergency sevices requiring the same/very similar functionality why isn't it one computer system project for all three services combined? It wouldn't have cost much more than the 10 million the police spent and overall probably would have saved money.The above aside even, so the police system cost 10 million to develop, but it's developed now and it works, the supplier isn't going to get any more money for it (apart from maintainence). So if you approach the supplier and say here's 2 million let us use the software, chances are there's a deal to be done.

    I know it's too late now, but the approach is charactersitic of government spending and wasting money. 2 million pounds is a lot of money, especially for a piece of software that appears to have no more functionality than Royal Mail's postcode address finder.

  8. On a slightly related note….Someone had the brilliant idea of merging all three of Gloucestershire's emergency call services into one brand-spanking new building. There was much debate about whether it would work, and about the cost, at first, but despite the doubters, the system does work.

    That hasnt stopped the government considering breaking up the TriService centre in favour of a South West-wide fire control room and merging the ambulance services with that of Avon and Wiltshire.

    The local paper recently updated us with this:

    The County's TriService centre has received a glowing report from the Audit Commission – despite concerns over its future.

    The report states that the Quedgeley facility has been completed to a very high standard, and below budget, and that it should be used as a model for future projects. It also says that the 6 million project has exceeded expectations in terms of “improving public safety.”

    However, the report has not removed the threat facing the centre.

  9. I was under the impression that UK Google will supply the address to a telephone nowhich surely could be added to the call centre. Dungbeetle

  10. We get the address automatically when someone calls from a landline (although the caller still has to confirm it, in case they are calling for someone else who is elsewhere), but over half the calls come from mobiles, which can only be traced to a vague area.

  11. re ID: I was under the impression that all sattelite and mobile calls, give to those that must know, a map refs that be mapped, so that they know which mob to blame for the sarky call? dungbeetle

  12. You can track down the location of a mobile to a vague area which appears as a big green circle on the map — this isn't precise enough to send an ambulance to, although it does help if someone gives a road name but doesn't know which area they are in. (Also, the LAS's beloved postcode areas aren't written on the map, so it helps if we know them off by heart) For Vodaphone and Orange mobiles it's done automatically but for other mobiles we have to get the information from the operator at the telephone exchange, who will come on the line after the caller hangs up.

  13. “However, the report has not removed the threat facing the centre.”Don't tell me your actually surprised, look at all the “services” the government runs badly, look at any it runs well, ask yourself could you achive such poor quality, by picking people off the street at random and giving them key decision making roles (answer No not really). Conclusion there is a deliberate policy of providing rubbish that doesn't work.

    The success of this project has sealed its fate. Look at all the government targets it hasn't reached:

    Over budget? (The easiest target) NO

    Not working/Not working as intended? (Another easy target) NO

    Low quality facility despite high cost? (Easy again) NO

    The government can't keep this open, people might get high expectations and refer to it when other government projects “succeed” by which I mean fail.

  14. I'd like to point out that the indented part of my comment was a direct quote from the paper, not my view.I'm not surprised about the situation. It's just another example of how the government and those with any sort of managerial control over our lives seem to not use any common sense. I think it's a requirement when you take on a certain roles: leave all logical thoughts somewhere beside the road/train track, on the way to work. Id like to think that they dont apply the same reasoning at home, but I may well be very delusional.

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