Crew Sacked

Have a look at this,

Two ambulance paramedics in North Yorkshire have been sacked because they did not respond to a 999 call while on a meal break, the BBC has learned.

The two men had been on duty for about six hours during a shift last month when the emergency call came in and they said they were unable to respond.

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service sacked them and they are appealing against that decision, the GMB union said.

Managers said they would not comment on the case during the appeal process.

Details of the emergency call or how it was eventually dealt with are not yet known.

The story then goes on to give another example of someone dying due to 'being on a break' (which I believe that I have debunked previously). I don't know anyone in the trust involved so I can't make the story any clearer than what has been released to the media.

The way in which this story would result in a justified sacking would be if the crew consciously refusing to go on a job by lying about their break status. But the story doesn't say this, it has no further details. For the record we can get the sack for 'preventing the public access to an ambulance' as is right.

What annoys me is that this story has been published in the media in the first place. The headline says as much as the body of the story, '999 Crew sacked in meal break row'. The crew have been sacked and the story doesn't give us any more information than that. Everything is 'no comment' or 'details are not known', the story is a headline and nothing more beyond that. The simple fact is that we don't know what has happened and won't until the appeal has been completed. I'm interested in how they got hold of the news in the first place.

Once the reasons are known – That is when the story should be published. When there is enough information to tell us the story, not just a 'Man bites dog' headline.

Unfortunately it seems that the BBC website and the media in general has a problem with ambulance crews having breaks, apparently it has become news that meal break=death. It isn't good news that there aren't enough ambulances, or that we are being sent to people who don't need an ambulance (apart from the annual New Year stories). It's a 'nice' headline and that is what counts.

But what do I know – I'm not a journalist.

If I find out more I'll set the record straight here.

UPDATE: I've had someone closer explain some more about the story – but I'm not going to write about it because it's still under appeal. More perhaps as stuff enters the public domain.

36 thoughts on “Crew Sacked”

  1. An NHS manger's guide to cost-cutting1. Notice ambulance crews' working arrangements appear to fall foul of EU law

    2. Force crews to take breaks at specified times whether they like it or not

    3. Results:

    a) Crews get annoyed at the new regime – this will be presented in the media as 'Crews don't want to take a break from saving lives'

    b) Among the many reasons for a crew not being available for every 999 call [understaffing, underfunding etc] is now “Crew were eating BigMacs as my granny died”

    4. Solution. Bow to 'popular' (aka media) pressure, and force crews to take unpaid breaks in line with EU guidance and have the option to pull them off said breaks as soon as someone stubs their toe, calls 999 and mentions breathing difficulties.

    Step 5… Profit!

    Cynical? Me?

  2. My sister has the same effect whenever she travels. She went to Moscow and some Chechen rebels kidnapped a theatre. She went to Edinburgh, Robin Cook died. She went to Rome, the Pope died. She went to Ireland… alright, nobody died, but the whole terrorist thing kicked off and she was limited luggage-wise.We've now locked her in her room in case she's thinking of popping down the shops…

  3. I was away walking in the West Highlands when Di died and even in the back of beyond away from the media I still got to see how saturated and content free the DI coverage was.Funnily enough the next time I went travelling in the West Highlands Sept. 11th 2001 happened and the same applies to the news coverage.

    Does anyone want a warning if I plan travels in the West Highlands in future? 🙂

  4. The BBC seem to get bees in their bonnet and then there's no shifting them. The Beeb just seem to like sensationalising things to get a grabbing headline. They don't care real facts, just the one's that make the story legal and attention seeking.Ambulance crews rock; It's not a job I'd do for all the tea in China!

  5. I am surprised at the BBC for going public with this story so quickly, particularly as it appears that an appeal has been lodged. If an appeal has been lodged then there is disagreement over the facts of the case, and if that is so the BBC should not be publishing opinion in case it prejudices the outcome of the appeal, which should consider all the facts neutrally.Would I be cynical in suggesting that this sort of publishing has the taciturn approval of the government, in that it (in their opinion) strengthens their case to remove the rights of workers, in this case Paramedics, and bully them into situations that would normally be considered completely wrong for a job – such as having no rest breaks at all?

  6. You know, I don't just think it's the BBC..I have just joined the world of the public services dealing with the press, and it strikes me that there's never an opportunity to win.

    Journalists seem to piece together a bit of hearsay, a quote out of context, and 8 words from a report with no other paragraphs around it, and turn it in to a “story”.

    Yeah. Whatever.

    And don't you just know it, there's no point in making a point of it, putting out a press statement, or demanding a retraction cos no-one cares once it's published. It would just come across as defensiveness if you were to anyway….

    In summary RAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

  7. It's what is known as a 'running story'.Even though there may not be much substance to it, the media can keep referring to it and any subsequent cases. This makes for public interest and boots ratings.If the headline had been 'Crew defied break instruction to save 1 week old toddler' it would have warranted nothing. It's not news.Ratings rule OK?

  8. It's not just on this story though: it's the same with each and every breaking news story on any news station.Case in point: Hammond's crash four months ago. All the news coverage consisted of for four or five hours afterwards was a reporter standing outside a hospital (they said it was Leeds, it could have been anywhere) reporting to national television that there was 'no further information at this stage.' They then get a few choice soundbites from people who have limited connections with the situation and think they can call it news.

    Makes me sick.

    (Sorry, overdosed on my angry pills today)

  9. I agree – I think I first noticed it when Diana died. I ended up shouting at the umpteenth 'update', “Yes she's bloody dead, that isn't going to change!”And it's continued since then.

  10. Since when is it news that human beings need to eat and sit down once in a while? You'd think that if a crew can't manage to take a break in six hours, the heaqdline would be: “No crews to save lives” “Hire more EMTs!”??

    I must be missing something.

  11. The worrying thing is that the BBC represents the responsible end of journlism. If this is as responsible and balanced as reporting gets these days then the media as a whole is in a sorry state.What makes me most angry about these “man dies while crew are on break” stories is that they are NOT news. There are hundreds of ambulance crews taking breaks every day, and dozens of people dying every day during those breaks. It's daft to say “last Monday… someone died while a crew were on a break” because it undoubtedly happened several times on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… That doesn't make it the fault of the crew. And it doesn't mean the person would have survived had the crew curtailed their break.

  12. Patient dies whilst crews take break, this is news to me. God forbid, we are not allowed to take breaks in our job, the punters would be complaining too if a crew turned up unfit for duty because they have not had a drink, been fed, sat down or even pee'd for the whole of 12 hours, the crews are at gods mercy and live off fresh air. Whose blame is it should we make a balls up because we have been rushed off our feet all day and make a mistake What we need is less of the time wasting calls, more ambos and crews on the road, this agenda for change sorted and a damn god shake up of this government and country, OK, rant over!

  13. Indeed, that about sums it up. Are people really so disconnected from reality that they can't see that it's important to have a) ambulance crews who are fed and rested (ie capable of doing a good job) and b) enough crews to cover so that when a) happens the whole system doesn't fall over. I get the sense that most crews are the kind of people would interrupt their breaks gladly at need when things are going pear shaped. On the other hand if they are being asked to cut short their breaks often and just due to a system which relies on their generosity because there simply aren't enough crews employed I can imagine them reaching a point when they say “enough is enough”.It's a shame the story isn't ever reported as “crews refuse to interrupt breaks in a desperate effort to bully management/government into providing proper service”

    Not a snappy headline I admit – but then snappy isn't everything.

    If I need an ambulance crew to save my life I'd like them to be able to get on with the job without being tired and hungry.

    I also seems reasonable for ambulance crews to have the option to look after their own health by living on more than burgers, coke and chocolate whilst on 12 hour shifts!

    The media as a whole seem to have lost the sense of reporting as “making sense of the world” and largely just pander to sensation. I for one am about sick of it!

  14. There seems to be a point missed here.How many earth shattering headlines have we seen lately?That's right – None.So the media need something to sell papers and get us watching the news. So they take a story and explode it to massive proportions. There's a saying in the reporting world. 'If there's no news make it.'Next time there's no fantastic event making headlines, look at whatever is the main story and ask 'Would this be such a shocking story if a major disaster had occurred?'The advantage of this sort of story is that it can run and run – until something significant hits the headlines.

  15. Take a look at the story about a 'link' between essential oils and breast tissue growth in young boys: report, albeit published in a scientific journal, cites 3, yes 3 cases! Who knows how it got past peer review to be published in the journal but it certainly doesn't bear up to scientific or statistical scrutiny. But it makes a story so it gets international media coverage and as a lot of people around the world trust the BBC, more people will read it and give it credence. Not an ambulance story but basically the smae 'principle' seems to apply. All ambulance crews are entitled to regular breaks and I think that anyone who criticises that should spend a shift or 10 with Tom and his colleagues, preferably a friday or saturday night in an inner city somewhere! Perhaps the angry pills are in the water supply today but I'm VERY cross.

  16. There was a recent example of this type of biased reporting in the Bristol Evening Post this week.According to the first part of this story a call dispatcher advised a chap to phone NHS Direct, despite the fact he was stuck down a ditch with a broken leg.

    It's only when you read further, past the sensationalism, that you realise he didn't call 999 from the ditch, but had already called a friend who'd helped him walk back to his home. The despatcher identified it as a Cat C non-urgent & advised him that all ambulances were already out on emergency calls & he'd have to wait for one to become available.

    But, of course, that's not as news-worthy.

  17. I spotted this story when it came out, and immediately noticed that there was no mention made of the type of 999 call that was made. Can I be really cynical and presume that it therefore was not the type of call where it would really have mattered if the crew had taken an extra 20 minutes and actually finished eating?Another presumption – if the crew do happen to be reinstated, what are the odds that the Beeb (or any of our other glorious news-reporters) will not bother to tell anyone. But they will point to this news story next time they want to say that our ambulance service should not be allowed their basic human right to food! (Just as this story pointed to the one of the teenager that died – would keen eyes have spotted the phrase “there is no suggestion he would have survived if the nearer crew had attended”, or would they just see “paramedics eating = people dying”?

  18. I once spotted a story about some scientific 'controversy' (can't remember the subject now). On one 'side' you had several professors, and 'on the other hand' the Beeb quoted some little old lady who said 'well, in MY experience'.To their credit, they changed the story when I pointed out the absurdity…

  19. Increasingly, journalists aren't employed on permanent contracts but are casual staff employed on a story-by-story basis. As a result, they feel pressured to produce reportrs that are “big bang for your buck” scandals rather than nice stories about the local garden fete.It's another example of the way market forces damage quality … just like the NHS being turned private.



  20. Tom wrote:>But what do I know – I'm not a journalist.

    That, Tom, is obvious. We've read your work. And trust it.



  21. As long as the Great Western Ambulance Service Head of Communications talks down to (in her words) “petty, local journalists” then we will never have a good realtionship with the local press. She doesn't want anything to do with them becuase they make her life difficult, failibg to see that if she engages with them, they might be more likely to give a more balanced, objecvtive opinion.Cheers


  22. I can't agree with you this time, Mr Reynolds, I think you have really got it wrong here.Just because the story is incomplete, it doesn't follow that the journalist hasn't tried to obtain more information. What is there looks to be accurate – it states the known facts. The story hasn't implied the ambulance crew are at fault – although I notice you have by giving details of what normally justifies a sacking. (I notice the trust's press office didn't give that particular fact out – or the journo chose not to use it.) What the story has done is demonstrate that this meal breaks issue is a serious problem.

    To suggest that journalists have a problem with ambulance crews having meal breaks is quite unfair. What journalists have a problem with is people dying when they don't need to. (Which, incidentally, illustrates the difference between 'the public interest' and 'of interest to the public'). It's the broader issue that is important. Somebody, somewhere has got this whole meal breaks thing very wrong. I doubt it's the ambulance crew, although that is itself irrelevant. Their predicament provides the 'hook' right now. No hook = no story = no publicity = no embarrassing pressure on whoever got us in this mess in the first place. Want change? The media can deliver it. And it can't wait for the outcome of the inquest – not unless you want your papers filled with the news from years ago.

    There's a few comments on here about the current standard of journalism. Funny thing is, most working journalists I know agree with you – we don't like it any more than you. We want our stories to be 100% accurate and bursting with detail. Time was a journalist got to cross-check multiple sources before publishing. Now there is no time. That's what happens when you move from newspapers to web-and-TV news delivery. Anyone fancy putting the genie back in the bottle on that one?

  23. does the general public give a damn about the nhs ambo service as long as they get a ambo for their stubbed toe.the closes you will get is if a crew crashes due to hypo attack, but then it will get blamed on the crew!!! I think the BBC is upset as they did not get the licence fee rise they wanted and are taking it out on everyone.

  24. Yeah – but you can kind of see her point in “petty” ;-)Nah – I agree, it would be in everyone's best interests if they learned to get along!

  25. Will “people dying when they don't need to” include the ambulance crew who die in a horrific road accident because they're hurtling along to their umpteenth blue-light call of the shift, haven't eaten in the last 11 and a half physically and mentally highly active hours, and suddenly start suffering a hypo due to incredibly low blood sugar?It is not the fault of ambulance personnel that they are human beings.

    Furthermore, if the media decide that publishing early is more important than publishing a considered, cross-checked article, then that is a rod the industry has made for its own back.

  26. Hi I'm an Irish nurse and I've been following the issue via Tom's blog for some time now.I think it is ridiculous that the ambulance crews are getting so much grief over something so simple as getting the meal breaks that they are entitled. They do not seem to want to supply enough any more emt/paramedics and ambulances which are evidently needed. It's blatant cost cutting.

    The Irish government do some pretty stupid stuff too. A few years ago, the Health Service Executive (formely the health boards) went ahead and bought a number of new ambulances without consultation with the crews. The crews refused to drive them as they were not covered bytheir licenses (there was a lift on the back whose weight put them over the category on a number of people's licenses). The issue eventually got resolved. It would have happened a lot faster had the government consulted with the crews.

  27. Sorry had the comment posted before i realised the typo. The line that starts with “they do not seem…” should have started with ” the government do not seem…”

  28. There is a general point here (which may well have been made by other commenters (?commentators?) and this is that, because we now have 24-hour news channels, the media seem to think that we need 24-hour coverage. Even when there is no story to report. Quite possibly (probably) because the broadcasters fear that if they don't keep reporing “nothing” they will miss the bost, and their rivals will beat them to it when something happens.We've seen it on a major scale (Diana, Queen Mother, 9/11, July bombings, Hammond, George Best – to name a few that come to my mind immediately). Sometimes when something major breaks all there is to say is “this monumentous event has happended. We don't know why; we don't know what the implications are. But we will go away and come back when we have something to tell you”. But instead they wheel in expert after expert who all say “we don't really know anything but seeing as your paying me I will make up some random specualtion. Can I have my cheque now, please”.

    Just remember: “News is what someone, somewhere, wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising”.

  29. as i work in control and waiting to get signed off dispatch ive learnt that in most sectors getting crews out on breaks are a prority but i think its unacceptable when someone really does need an ambulance, every crew needs a break at some time but this kind of thing is just unaccaptable. shame on the crew, why do the job if you dont want to save lives, was it a hotel or technician crew?

  30. The BBC seem to be losing the plot – for some reason they thought it was “news” to announce that “humans are to blame for climate change” like we didn't know already.

  31. “kidnapped a theatre”?!?No offence intended Angus, but that made my day!

    On a more serious note, I saw this when the article was first published (and blogged about it), but I had very similar reactions to everybody else by the sound of it. This sort of thing shouldn't be headline news, especially given the very sketchy nature of the events reported.



  32. What you refer to reminds me a great deal of the “Dead Ringers” sketch “Terrible Things that happen”. Unfortunately I couldn't find a clip on you tube 🙁 I did manage to find a transcript on IMDB though: – scroll down the page till you reach the section with David Dimbleby. It's very funny, and with most Dead Ringers stuff, right on the money.

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