Priority Dispatch Works

 No ambulance for agony boy

A boy was left crying in agony at his New Addington home after waiting in vain for more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive. Scott Thorpe broke his toe when a concrete bollard collapsed on his foot – but when his dad called 999 for help the response was painfully slow.

In the end parents Anthony Bailey and Maureen Thorpe, both 50, were forced to beg a neighbour to come to the rescue and drive the 10-year-old to hospital.

Furious Anthony has complained to the London Ambulance Service (LAS) about the poor response – but has been told paramedics had to give priority to more serious calls.

The dad-of-two said: “I think it's disgusting. For a boy that age to be distressed and in pain like he was is disgusting.

“I waited and waited. I waited an hour and ten minutes and nothing arrived. He was crying and shouting out, rolling around in the chair saying: 'Help me dad'.”

The youngster was hurting so much, that when his dad finally did manage to get him to hospital he was plied with morphine to ease the pain.

Anthony said: “The toe was swollen up and had gone blue. The person on the phone said it was the wrong time of day to have an accident.

“They asked: 'Can you get a cab?' I said: 'No I can't afford it'. I couldn't do anything.”

With neither of Scott's parents able to drive and no neighbours initially on hand to help he was left stranded.

And the family insist they are too cash strapped, with Anthony being on sickness benefit, to pay the expensive fare to Mayday Hospital.

The accident happened at about 5.30pm on May 2 near tower blocks at the top of Lodge Lane where Scott and his friends were playing.

His dad persuaded a neighbour to drive him to the minor injuries unit at Parkway Medical Centre.

There Anthony was told the injury was so serious his son needed to go to hospital.

But once home the neighbour who had helped could not take them because she had to look after her own children. So Anthony called an ambulance at 5.50pm – and more than an hour later they were still waiting for help at their home in North Downs Crescent.

Eventually, another neighbour came home from work and took the Wolsey Juniors pupil to hospital.

But his dad is fuming at the response.

A spokesman for the LAS confirmed an ambulance would have reached Scott, but that there were other people in more urgent need of help.

He said: “Our records show that we were unable to send an ambulance immediately because all of the crews in the area were already responding to other 999 calls.

“Having established that the injury was definitely not life threatening, one of our clinical advisers contacted the family and suggested that the boy could be given painkillers before the ambulance arrived.

“However, we were subsequently advised that they would make their own way to hospital.

“His family have been in touch with us and we will be providing them with a full response in due course.”

 Please feel free to discuss the difference between an ambulance going to someone with a heart attack, and someone with a broken toe.  Consider the limited resources that prevent an ambulance on every street corner.  You may be amazed to hear that our Priority dispatch system does sometimes work…


(Cheers BWTS and ParamedicUK)

51 thoughts on “Priority Dispatch Works”

  1. A cab from New Addington to the Mayday would have cost ten pounds at the most. (It costs 160 every time an ambulance is sent out). I find it hard to believe that a family didn't have ten pounds they could use in an emergency, or that they didn't know *anyone* with a car. Plus, how did they expect to get back from the hospital? They certainly wouldn't have been sent an ambulance for that!Personally I think this call should have been refused from the outset (something we're not allowed to do), then the father would have been forced to make alternative arrangements and the poor kid wouldn't have been languishing in pain for an hour.

  2. Hello Mark,I can assure you that I have visited homes of people on benefit where every last 10p is accounted for. Ten pounds would be an unimaginable sum to have lying around. People in these circumstances are unable to plan and feel totally impotent. People on sickness benefit are even more likely to suffer since they have no chance of getting back to work in the short term and improving their lives.

    Imagine you're him – kid in pain, no money, you've been told to wait, you don't know how long… Imagine the frustration and guilt you must feel.

    This man probably didn't even start to think about getting back home. Getting to hospital in the first place would have seemed difficult enough in itself. And what would the alternative arrangements have been? A homemade splint held in place with sticking plaster?

    I understand the frustrations of dealing with people who you deem to be “feckless”. But this is not true of everyone. I was alright: I could give up my job and walk away when it all got too depressing for me. For the people I counselled, poverty and debt were inescapable.

    It's now 16 years since I did debt counselling. I still remember the details of some of the cases I dealt with. Harrowing situations where people had made life choices, only to have their health suddenly change, leaving them totally unable to cope.

    I know from reading your blog and Steve's that you and he have seen how you each work and been amazed to see how the complaints that crews and control centre workers have of each other are largely unjustified. I'm sure if you could swap places with this father, you'd see things aren't as straightforward as you might imagine.

  3. Sorry but it made me a bit angry – how arrogant.Although it's always something different if your own child is involved I guess but anyway..

    Can't afford a cap? Well I always thought your child's safety and health should be more important than the 20 quid for a taxi to the nearest hospital and as far as I am concerned the benefit system in this country is quite good (too good) but maybe I'm wrong.

    They should have emphasised that we are talking about a toe here and that's ridiculous even if it's about a child that age. Everyone should have some painkillers at home (and hey, you get them for less than a pound at Boots) but maybe I am wrong about that as well.

    In my opinion your priority system worked quite well here for a change *g*

    It's just bad press and that's.. well, NOT nice is it šŸ™‚

  4. The point they didn't make was that probably he would have got an ambulance quicker, had other people with even more minor problems not been tying up the ambulances…

  5. Got to wonder how a concrete bollard just 'collapsed' – what were he and his friends doing to it at the time? As far as the dad goes, what an arrogant b*stard! He's on goldbrickers (sorry, sickness) benefit – how annoyed is he going to be when the ambulance doesn't turn up for him going into a coma/having a heart attack/having a fit/whatever's actually wrong with him going wrong because it's gone to a little boy with a broken toe instead?I hate people like that, which is why I couldn't do your job Tom. I'd just run them over with the ambo…

    Changing the subject, I presume you're watching Eurovision tomorrow? Any opinions on our entry?

  6. You need to read your work contract more carefully. As a healthcare professional working in the NHS, there's a bit in your contract stating that if you fail to be in at least six places at any one time, The National Society of Daily Mail Readers are fully entitled to have your nads on a skewer.Did nobody ever tell you that?

  7. ply with morphine is what made me laugh, people have a nasty habit of stopping breathing when you ply them with opiates.not being very stereotypical, but i bet the have a decent telly/SKY so its nice to see that they have their priorities right. the other question is what was Parkway upto, if his injuries “were SO serious, he's have to go to Hospital” it note leaving home, being assessed and being back home, all in 20 mins

    aaaaah, the great Public, who would we complain about if it wasn't for them…….lol

  8. Oh, that makes me really cross. Not just the fact that the family whinged about not getting an ambulance for their poor little diddums (I'm used to that), but the sycophantic way the newspaper reported it (agony! yes, broken toes hurt!), and the fact that no criticism was made of the child's father refusing to get a cab because “he couldn't afford it”. If he really cared about his son's pain that much, he'd have coughed up. The ambulance service's response annoys me too — they shouldn't have said he would have got an ambulance, they should have pointed out that this call was a load of old pants.I wish they'd put another article in the paper: “80 year old having heart attack waits 15 minutes for ambulance whilst all vehicles are out dealing with poxy children with broken toes”. AARGH! RAGE!!!

  9. Crumbs, guys. How many of you have fallen into the Daily Mail way of thinking about people on benefits? Yes, he should have been more understanding of the delay. But yes, we should perhaps be a bit more understanding of his situation. As a former debt counsellor, I think it's very unlikely that he happened to have enough money around to pay for a cab to the hospital, nor would he have found it easy to get access to such money. Plus, as far as I can gather from Nee Naw, he wouldn't actually have had any idea when an ambulance was going to turn up – could be five minutes, could be five hours. The pain must have been pretty bad to warrant morphine… I'd get stressed out with a wailing kid on my hands under those circumstances, especially if the kid was mine.

  10. Thanks Snoop, you beat me to it. I agree that the whole story does sound more than a little pathetic, but there's a fair whiff of 'victim blaming' in the air. Like I said, it *sounds* pathetic, but it's hardly like a full asessment of the family's intellectual or financial coping abilities are included. Some people are either acopic, or poor, and society at large gets to deal with the consequences of that.That being said, it sounds like the dispatch grid worked okay to me. Over an hour is pushing a bit, especially in a city, but if it was a busy shift…

  11. I doubt very much that the lad was 'plied' with morphine, but it makes good reading! And you're quite right bbx, the 64 starts at the MIU and drops off right outside the bloody mayday!! Takes awhile but hey, if your kid is in that much pain………If i had a pound for every time i have heard 'cant afford it', whilst there is the family with their FO tvs, chain smoking their way thru each day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. what annoys me most about this sort of thing is the way the gutter press side with the 'innocent' member of the public and use emotive language etc. If they were that worried about the child, they'd have paid for a cab, or got another neighbour to drive him. Idiots.

  13. I am also on sickness benefit and I would like to know what exactly you mean by “goldbrickers”.I can assure you that while sickness benefit in the UK doesn't leave you scraping by on bread and water, and they probably could have found the cab fare somehow as a one-off, it doesn't leave you rolling in money.

  14. not being very stereotypical?where in the article does it say ANYTHING about whether they have Sky or a fancy telly, let alone what their priorities are?

  15. Ah but don't you know the press are ruled by the Prime Directive (qv StarTrek)? They can observe and comment but heavens forefend they ever actually help anyone…

  16. Besides which, being on benefits means they could have claimed back the taxi fare.As for the “goldbrickers” comment – I hope for his sake that Mr Prune there never finds himself too ill to be able to work. I am also on Incapacity Benefit plus Disability Living Allowance, and I can confirm that it's no easy meal ticket. Not every benefits claimant is the work-shy fraudster the Daily Mail would have you believe.

  17. I was doing a little of your patented “breath, relax… breath, relax” myself reading that one Tom. Why does every ignorant scrote “parent” in the country assume that, because they didn't try hard enough in school, the NHS provides them with a taxi? Vermin.

  18. “Agony boy” – sounds like a Tim Burton creation.I'd say the bloke's after compensation, going straight to the press like that. That's how the world is these days.

  19. I don't know about you, but I for one worked before I became ill, and I was under the impression I paid tax and National Insurance so that IF the worst happened – which in my case it did – I wouldn't end up starving on the streets.I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't have any children or brand-name sportswear or a massive TV… but then I don't read the Daily Mail so I guess I don't know how I'm supposed to behave.

  20. steady on.Yes, the guy is horrendously arrogant thinking that his kid's broken toe constitutes a priority for an emergency ambulance, but let's remember:

    -they did get someone to give them a lift to the health centre first, rather than calling 999 straight off.

    -they don't have a car themselves to just hop in and go.

    – there is a tendency to panic when it's your own child.

    I agree this bloke was in the wrong.

    But I fail to see where schooling comes into it, and I think given some of the violent and abusive people in these chronicles, calling this one “vermin” is perhaps a teensy bit of an overreaction?

  21. Yeah. Realistically, sounds like he's after compensation. But, giving the parents the benefit of the doubt, and assuming they haven't a clue how to deal with any medical problems (lots of people don't), then having your kid screaming in agony while you wait for an ambulance would be an awful experience. And as to why they didn't get on the bus: you wouldn't go off to the bus stop if you were expecting the ambulance any second. If I've learned anything from NeeNaw, it's that they say “we'll be there 'soon'” but they never ever say when.That said, it's the responsibility of Dispatch to set objective priorities, and a broken toe is definitely not a priority, objectively speaking. They were right. The father was wrong, but excusably so. The only people with their heads totally up their asses were the folks at the “news” outlet.

  22. I remember someone (NeeNaw?) saying that there was a plan to introduce taxi vouchers for pregnant women, to get around the “Maternataxi ambulance” problem. In a situation like this, I wonder whether it would make sense to set up a similar scheme? E.g. the local taxi firms have an account set up with the hospital, they can claim back at the end of each month for their trips, and then this cost may get passed onto the patients on a means-assessed basis. That way, you could encourage people to think “ambulance = equipment and trained personnel”, rather than just “a set of wheels”.

  23. “Over an hour is pushing a bit”For a broken toe? Sure the poor lad was in a lot of pain, but which calls would you prefer we hold while we “taxi” this lad to hospital? The heart attack? The severe asthma attack? The cardiac arrest?

    If the minor injuries unit had actually determined that the injury was serious, they would have rung for an ambulance there and then. And why take the boy home to call for an ambulance – why not ask the neighbour to drop them off at the hospital?

    The morphine was given for pain relief, and in no way implies the seriousness of the injury.

  24. “having your kid screaming in agony while you wait for an ambulance would be an awful experience.”I agree, but remember the child had already been seen at a minor injuries unit who could and I'm sure would have given pain relief. Also, the child was then taken home before the ambulance was called – as I said earlier, why not get the neighbour to drop them off at the hospital or as the MIU to call an ambulance there and then.

    It sounds a terrible thing to say, but leaving it that amount of time means its not longer an emergency, and therefore an abuse of the 999 system.

    Just a thought though – how many concrete bollards just collapse? Sounds a bit fishy to me.

  25. DIB would have been interesting. If the little tyke was playing up so much over a hurt toe I would have induced DIB by throttling the little sod!

  26. Reading this, I think a lot of it comes from the dad's ignorance of the ambo triage system, being panicked by his son (if he was crying as much as it makes out, for an hour, it would be stressful) and the Daily Mail style reporting.I think there's more to this than meets the eye. I mean, what advice/treatment did he get at the Minor Injuries unit? And why didn't they arrange the ambo?

    I also think they are *definitely* going to ring the ambulance chasers with the “concrete bollard collapse” thing…

  27. “but which calls would you prefer we hold while we “taxi” this lad to hospital? The heart attack? The severe asthma attack? The cardiac arrest?”Um no, the maternataxi, the grazed knee, the cut finger, the girl who wants some paracetamol…

    I'd have thought compared to many of the calls you complain about a broken toe is a relatively OK thing to call an ambulance for…

  28. Thanks for pointing out the reality to people who haven't seen it.I know that in my case, I wasn't expecting to get ill and lose my job, and while the money to live on for food, transport and bills (57 a week) came through within a few weeks, my Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit took THREE months before anything came through. During that three months I had to pay my rent and council tax – my two biggest single outgoings – entirely out of my small amount of savings, the money the government said I needed to live on, and whatever I could borrow from friends. I then spent a further FIVE months in a limbo emergency situation of only getting half of my rent and council tax paid – still having to find the rest from the money the government said I needed to live on, or face eviction – while the council tried to sort their paperwork out. None of this was due to errors on my part. It is the system that you can expect to deal with. And you deal with it on top of being ill.

    I was lucky, I had savings. A lot of people don't. They have payments to make on their car or the loan they got to fix up the house, because who thinks they'll suddenly get ill and land on benefits?

  29. I hate to break it to people, but actually, some of these 'minor injury units' or any other outlying medical centre (NHS Walk In centres are occasionally like this, grr) can be a bit useless. The conversation probably went:”Looks like his toe's broken, he'll need to go to hospital”.

    “How am I going to get him there then.”

    “Not my problem and there's nothing we can do for him here, here's some paracetamol, on your way now”.

    Let's face it, what 'painkillers' are going to touch a proper broken and crushed toe injury, that are dispensable at an MIU, which is nurse led (I looked it up so don't be saying there's doctors there). Add a panicked dad and distressed child, with all the neighbours basically not really being very helpful (although it may be that none of them had a car or any money lying about; ever been to New Addington?) and I can totally see how things got as they did.

    Think that there should be a better system in place for people to egt to hospital (voucher system with voucher given at MIU for instance); no, I don't think that the boy should have got an ambulance quicker but I am sorry he had to wait in pain and that his family weren't in a position to do anything about it, when it was a simple logistical problem.

    And the public transport from NA to Croydon is not brilliant, as people are always saying in the Letters in the Croydon Advertiser every week…

  30. Seems to me the only baddies here are the journalists.Like vultures circling they will feed on any carcass. They'd be just as at home writing a piece about the heart attack patient who had to wait for an hour becuase the ambulance had gone to a broken toe.

    Weasels the lot of them.

  31. oh, i over-react to everything. what? “comment verification failed”! GODDAMNIT! …SMASH!I suppose vermin is a little strong. I just get a little annoyed that we allow these people to carry on with this. The poster campain we have running at the moment says “call an ambulance for the wrong reason and someone could die.” i can honestly say that should be re-worded “people DO die” as I can think of atleast three cardiac arrests (one elderly, one 30 yr male and one 6 month child) where my patients who have had a “4Hs, 4Ts” reversible cause were too far gone on arrival to save. On each of these jobs we had to travel past other ambulance stations to get to the house. The crews on these stations were likely to be dealing with more minor cases. I just think “well, what if it had been MY family.” I know broken toes hurt, but they don't need an ambulance

  32. The guilty party in this story is clearly the media.Followed by the family for calling them.

    Followed by the government/whoever for not providing a hospital taxi service for those who don't need an ambulance but need to get to hospital for an unscheduled visit and can't afford transport.

    The family weren't wrong for calling for an ambulance, given their circumstances. Although maybe one parent could have babysat the neighbours children while the neighbour took the boy and the other parent to hospital -solutions often appear after the event, hindsight is always 20/20.

    The Ambulance service weren't wrong for giving the call a lower priority. Clearly no life or limb were in danger. Pain is nasty but survivable. IMO Ambulances are there to provide emergency medical treatment and transport patients who need medical care en route. I've always been mystified by their use as taxis from retirement homes to doctors' appointments and the like.

  33. “I've always been mystified by their use as taxis from retirement homes to doctors' appointments and the like.”Um, that's a different sort of ambulance (patient transport service) which is little more than a taxi service (maybe with staff that could do a little bit of first aid if anything went wrong on the way).

  34. I sympathise a little with the father (as everyone else has said, the real villians of the piece are the reporters, and the system is at fault too) but the fact still remains that ambulances are there to deal with medical emergencies, not financial ones. I do find it hard to believe the family couldn't find 10 for a taxi — they could take it out of food or bill money and repay it at a later date, surely? — but you obviously have more experience than me in that sphere. I know I was living on 8k a year when I was at university and I never reached a stage where I wouldn't have been able to find 10 in an emergency. Anyway, the fact remains that you wouldn't call an ambulance to take you to Tescos to do your food shopping, and neither should you call an ambulance for a broken toe. “I can't afford a cab” is *never* a good reason to call an ambulance.

  35. Hmm… I would have though that in an urban environment, a response time of over an hour for any job would be regarded as less than brilliant (and that's including the maternataxis and grazed-knees complaints). I don't know how it is over there, by any means, but in Melbourne I can't think of too many jobs, even like a broken toe, that would take more than an hour to get a truck… unless it was a really busy day.As I said originally, I think the grid worked fine. I'm just surprised that even the lowest priority job took that long.

  36. I believe (from ozzie workmates) that Melbourne has far less people living per square mile than London. London (from a brief, probably innacurate google) seems to have more than twice the population, and is much much smaller.It's just really crowded and the services are all underfunded and poorly managed. šŸ™

  37. Sorry it just occurred to me that this didn't happen in London. But I suspect where it did happen was still more densely populated than Melbourne and probably had similarly crappily funded services.

  38. New Addington is in the south-west of London – although admittedly on the outskirts. The LAS is the local service, and the area is served by one of the busiest ambulance stations in the south-west of London, as they are constantly being pulled in to Croydon which is extremely busy

  39. My local hospital (a major teaching hospital) has an arrangement with a local cab company. Cabs can be sent in cases where someone should be seen fairly fast but a sirens-screaming ambulance would be a bad idea…

  40. Not when it was my father-in-law, but that was about 4 years ago, so maybe it's finally been sorted out…. and if so, very glad to hear it.

  41. The thing is I'm always bemused by what people think the ambulance is going to do. Pain relief? Possibly. I don't know if LAS are allowed to give morphine to kids. If the parents had taken the child to hospital themselves then it wouldn't have sat for an hour in pain. I think the fathers comments are the root of this story. They called an ambulance because they couldn't afford a cab.

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