On Complaints

Yesterday's post and other posts in the past have had readers asking me why we tend not to 'challenge' people who we think are misusing the ambulance service. In yesterday's case it was the family who had a mildly ill child and then followed the ambulance in a people carrier.

By some stroke of luck there has recently been released the main reason why us roadcrews tend to shut up and get on with it.

Take a look at this pdf of the LAS Trust Board report from July this year. Take a look at the complaints made about behaviour starting at page 92 all the way down to page 99.

These are complaints about behaviour and attitude, not the clinical treatment given.

Some examples –

Complainant feels patient needed the attention of the A&E department was advised instead to attend the practice nurse. The complaint also states that the nurse was given a 'misleading assessment of the severity of the patients wound when she agreed to treat her.'

(Patient wants to go to hospital, we should do that rather than direct them to a more relevant care pathway').


Complainant unhappy that driver of LAS vehicle seems to be sitting in vehicle at the end of road all the time with engine running and reading newspaper. Complainant concerned that this is unnecessary pollution.

(We sit on standby in a effort to reach sick people quicker – Vehicle heating/air conditioning needs the engine running).


Complainant/Patient is blind. Injured his foot so neighbour called LAS. Crew arrived and treated patient. Female crew member was concerned about his living conditions and so stayed a bit longer after treatment. Complainant feels very offended by this and says he asked her to leave repeatedly and is very angry that she refused.

(Trying to make sure that someone has the support that they need?)


“Complainant unhappy with attitude of ambulance man. Was on the phone with ambulance man after ex-wife had to be taken to hospital. Complainant needed to know what was going on as his daughters were at the scene but ambulance man was very abrupt and refused to give out any information and eventually hung up on complainant. Complainant also asked for name of ambulance person which he refused to give out. Ex-wife told complainant that when in the ambulance the ambulance man told her that he would report the complainant for asking for his name.”

(I'm thinking that there is a little thing called patient confidentiality, complainant is ex-husband)


“Ambulance was parked in the middle of the road, when complainant asked for them to move it because his daughter had an exam and he was taking her to school, the female member of staff said she didn't care about the exam. Complainant finds this very rude.”

(We park in the middle of the road if there is no parking elsewhere and we need to see to a sick patient – not for fun. I could have had a similar complaint myself once upon a time.).


“Linked to LAS 0300/04 and 0195/06. Complainant states that “JS and S” at (an LAS ambulance station)y have been humiliating her and her son and the local shop keepers. She also states that they have ordered goods for £500 on her account for Littlewoods catalogue.” (It should be noted that staff records reveal that no staff answering to the description

(Erm…)


As you can see some people are quick to complain, or just don't understand the job that we do. Remember that I was complained against for saying that a patient hits like a girl after he assaulted me – and the complaint was fully investigated. I wonder if that is in a Trust report somewhere…

So for a quiet life it seems that the easiest thing to do is to relax, not stress out, and take them to the A&E department and let them sit there for 3 hours and 59 minutes*. It's not the right thing to do, but it is the thing that will mean I get to keep working.

You can find other reports here and can even attend the Trust board meetings.

Thanks to 'Wiggy' for pointing out this report.


*Stolen from this.

20 thoughts on “On Complaints”

  1. Some extracts – try not to laugh too much.Page 92:

    Member of the public states that a member of staff at (an LAS ambulance) station, got into his FRU and mouthed 'I'm going to drop you on your head'. Complainant states she witnessed this from some distance and called the Police.

    Note the last sentence.

    Page 92:

    Member of the public unhappy with what appears to be two

    ambulances and an FRU rushing through traffic on lights and sirens only to then be seen shopping in a store.

    Can it be verified it was the same crew?

    Page 94:

    Elderly man fell at home and couldn't pick himself up. After calling 999 the Police arrived and then called an ambulance, when it arrived it was no longer needed. The female paramedic was

    questioning the patient's daughter whilst she was on the phone. The paramedic then picked up her medical bag and rudely stormed out of the house.

    Paramedics like being called out to false alarms.

    Page 94:

    Social Worker unhappy with the crew who attended patient who was sectioned, patient was ready to go but the crew would not convey without the Police in case the patient became violent. There was a30 minute wait which led to the patient locking himself in his room and threatening to jump out the bedroom window, the Police had to then intervene. However the patient was still willing to travel and did not need to be restrained.

    Isn't it policy to have the police on hand when dealing with head cases?

    Page 97 – bottom of page:

    What is a Teal Leader?

    Page 97:

    Complainant states that “JSand S” at (an LAS ambulance station)y have been humiliating her and her son and the local shop keepers. She also states that they have ordered goods for 500 on her account for Littlewoods catalogue. (It should be noted that staff records reveal that no staff answering to the description

    Not to mention spelling, punctuation and grammar.

  2. Some extracts – try not to laugh too much.Page 92:

    Member of the public states that a member of staff at (an LAS ambulance) station, got into his FRU and mouthed 'I'm going to drop you on your head'. Complainant states she witnessed this from some distance and called the Police.

    Note the last sentence.

    Page 92:

    Member of the public unhappy with what appears to be two

    ambulances and an FRU rushing through traffic on lights and sirens only to then be seen shopping in a store.

    Can it be verified it was the same crew?

    Page 94:

    Elderly man fell at home and couldn't pick himself up. After calling 999 the Police arrived and then called an ambulance, when it arrived it was no longer needed. The female paramedic was

    questioning the patient's daughter whilst she was on the phone. The paramedic then picked up her medical bag and rudely stormed out of the house.

    Paramedics like being called out to false alarms.

    Page 94:

    Social Worker unhappy with the crew who attended patient who was sectioned, patient was ready to go but the crew would not convey without the Police in case the patient became violent. There was a30 minute wait which led to the patient locking himself in his room and threatening to jump out the bedroom window, the Police had to then intervene. However the patient was still willing to travel and did not need to be restrained.

    Isn't it policy to have the police on hand when dealing with head cases?

    Page 97 – bottom of page:

    What is a Teal Leader?

    Page 97:

    Complainant states that “JSand S” at (an LAS ambulance station)y have been humiliating her and her son and the local shop keepers. She also states that they have ordered goods for 500 on her account for Littlewoods catalogue. (It should be noted that staff records reveal that no staff answering to the description

    Not to mention spelling, punctuation and grammar.

  3. You can never please all of the folks all of the time, if you work with the public someone will always complain about something. I suspect your profession cops for a lot of displaced anger and anxiety,from patients relatives. Say little old lady is found by her son/daughter, she is on the floor having being there all night, she has a broken leg and is cold. son/daughter is probably terrified mum will die and, its all there fault because they didn't call round last night, fix the loose stair carpet, get another handrail put in or whatever, the list is endless, they are distressed, they will go over the incident with a fine tooth comb, looking for somewhere to dump their angst, because that is easier than facing how they really feel. I think you will always be in the firing line

    Of course you get complaints from absolute Muppet's (well we can see that!) and you have my admiration in your ability to go from a

    'desperate' job to a 'rubbish' job without doing something regrettable with an oxygen bottle to the latter!

  4. You can never please all of the folks all of the time, if you work with the public someone will always complain about something. I suspect your profession cops for a lot of displaced anger and anxiety,from patients relatives. Say little old lady is found by her son/daughter, she is on the floor having being there all night, she has a broken leg and is cold. son/daughter is probably terrified mum will die and, its all there fault because they didn't call round last night, fix the loose stair carpet, get another handrail put in or whatever, the list is endless, they are distressed, they will go over the incident with a fine tooth comb, looking for somewhere to dump their angst, because that is easier than facing how they really feel. I think you will always be in the firing line

    Of course you get complaints from absolute Muppet's (well we can see that!) and you have my admiration in your ability to go from a

    'desperate' job to a 'rubbish' job without doing something regrettable with an oxygen bottle to the latter!

  5. Agreed. I have had to complain a couple of times, but these times are outweighed by the significant number of times I have spoken to or e-mailed managers, supervisors, etc. to compliment or thank staff for excellent service.Praise is too rare a thing today. E-mail has made it even easier than ever to give it, as well. And (sorry to the grammar anoraks!) it makes me feel good to think that I may have cheered someone up.

    Apologies if this comment isn't the best-constructed that you've ever read. I've just got up after nights and I'm still a bit woolly-headed. If you're not happy with its quality please contact complaints@shoveitupyourbum.com (“,)

  6. Thanks, both of you. I think it's important that you give thanks to anyone who you think is doing a good job. I volunteer at a hospital radio station and a couple of disabled people's charities and it's disheartening to think that your hard work and effort that you're giving for free isn't appreciated. It makes you think “what's the point” and makes you want to give up. The occasional thank you for all your hard work really does reinvigorate you and make you believe in what you're doing.

  7. The public:• Expect to treated like gods.

    • Exaggerate and invent for effect.

    • Like to express their views moan.

    • Panic easily.

    • Are total – fill in relevant word/phrase here.

    Question. How many of these complaints are upheld and how many lead to lawsuits?

  8. How do people go about giving compliments to the ambulance service? And if a patient has high praise for a particular person, does that person hear of that praise?As I have no other forum to do so I'd like to offer high praise for the ambulance people who visited my elderly relatives in Tiveton, Stoodleigh (in Devon) and also in Hatch End (NW London) who have always managed to put them at ease and dealt with them in such a way that my relatives didn't feel foolish for falling over or calling them out.

    I'd also like to state that Exeter Hospital is a death trap as I've had three relatives go in there and come out in a wooden box. (Although I think that's just a family curse rather than standards at the hospital – needless to say if I'm being taken to hospital I will refuse to go there. Luckily I live 400 miles away from it).

  9. These reports ought to be published … and laughed at .. more often. Maybe if these jokers realise that people ridicule them they will stop making such daft complaints. Although it would also help if they wasn't taken so seriously at the “official” end.

  10. At the risk of sounding like a “Daft Patient” type -I've read through some of those complaints that Tom didn't list in this post. While a number of them are, in fact, silly – there also seem to be a fair few that are legitimate complaints.

    I'm sure there are an outstanding majority of ambulance workers, hospital workers, and other medical professionals who do their jobs, do them well, do them consistantly – but not only can EVERYONE have the possibility of a “bad day” – it is also very probable that there ARE a few who are just not suitable for working a job with direct contact to the general public.

    Lord knows, I'm not – that's why I'm an accountant. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone screws up, everyone has a “bad day” now and again. Sometimes we don't realize that we are coming across “cold” or “rude” or what-have-you. Sometimes we need a kick in the arse to remind us.

  11. If you want to pass on compliments you can phone the ambulance service trust concerned; directory enquiries should have the number. When I did this I was asked my name, and the location and time the ambulance was called, which allowed the right people to get the thanks they deserved. Just as well since as with many patients I was in no condition to be remembering the names of strangers, even if they were briefly my best friends! I was told they would get a written commendation from their chief exec. Don't forget the dispatchers! If your relatives were treated at an A & E department I bet the staff there would appreciate a thank-you card too.

  12. I'm sure there are justified complaints. That's why there's a system for making them. But the proportion of real : daft would be interesting to know. My feeling is it'll turn out somewhere near 5% : 95%.People with more experience (eg Tom's management, who sneakily read this blog?), what's the score?

  13. realistically, for what's happened tonight a patient could complain about me. I asked her to stop pressing her call bell every 30 seconds for some sleeping tablets, because we were a) already trying to sort them and b) had another 30 patients on the ward to deal with.She didnt take it very well.

  14. grrr silly tiscali ate my comment first time round, anyhow, what I was saying was, these folk have way too much time on their hands, I work in a job where we give out feedback forms 99% of the time they are great, we got one, one bad letter and form, and it causes such a hoo-ha you'd think we never did anything right, there were meetings all over the place it was treated like the crisis of the century our complete system was overhauled. Of course there are valid complaints and everything should be investigated to a certain extent but everywhere seems tove gone mad especially when they end up taking the word of a petty-little-hitler over one of their long standing trusted (I should hope so anyway) employees.

  15. Or drop in or post a thank-you card or letter. Even if you don't know which station the crew in question are from, if you send it in to the relevant ambulance service HQ with enough details to identify them (date, approximate time and location of the incident) it will filter through to them.Every ambulance trust that I've been involved with has treated “thank you” messages as very important, and my current service publishes a list every month of crews who have had one, as well as sending each person involved a copy of the letter or card.

    Please do it. It doesn't happen often, and I don't know of anyone who doesn't like to get the occasional one.

  16. (Sighs deeply). Yes, there are idiot crews who do dumb things, and we've all arrived at jobs where we've had to talk down a situation escalated by one of our colleagues, be it due to personality clashes, tiredness, a difficult day or just sheer stupidity. Its part of the job. Its what we do. On the whole though, on a daily basis we talk down people whose own small world is infinitely more important than the person that someone, somewhere has already determined was poorly enough to need an emergency ambulance. Indeed, the entire first day of our 3 day breakaway training was based around talking down a situation before it became a crisis.The only time I have ever had to use my breakaway training was when someone had the hump because the ambulance was obstructing his drive. It was 3am, we were parked at the end of a cul de sac and I was getting the carry chair for a person who was suffering from chest pain and was (as it turned out) planning to arrest in the back of the vehicle en route to hospital. The 'gentleman' (for want of a more appropriate term) was leaving his friends house to go home and came out to find our ambulance parked in his way. As I walked up the path to the patients property with the carry chair and associated paraphernalia, said 'gentleman' stood on the narrow path effectively barring my way. “You're blocking me in”, says the gentleman…….”Yes” say's I, “I'm sorry about that but there's a very sick person in there and I've parked as close to them as I can so I can get out as fast as I can. If you let me past, I can pick him up and get out of your way as fast as possible.” Gentleman doesn't move and says: “I wanna go home.”. “I understand, and if you step aside I'll get out of your way as fast as I can.” Man stays put. (note loss of gentle at this point). “I want you out of my way NOW”, says man.

    I recognise this point. This is the point (we were taught in training school), where its a good idea to position yourself ready to duck and run if you need to. However, there is a man who looks like a milk bottle in the house who I really want to get out. Getting out of this man's way would have meant reversing the entire length of the cul de sac to let him out and then driving all the way back. I determine this isn't happening.

    “I'm sorry sir, I can't do that until I have my patient on the vehicle. They really are extremely poorly and I'm very worried what will happen if we delay any further”. Somewhat predictably, the man remains in my path, and sadly also predictably says: “GET YOUR ******* AMBULANCE OUT OF MY WAY NOW OR I'LL MOVE IT FOR YOU”. “Sir” I start, but am unable to complete as man roars loudly and steps through the space I had created between us saying “MOVE THE ****** AMBULANCE YOU IGNORANT (female dog).

    Now I don't know if you've ever been in a situation like this, but it really happens very, very quickly indeed and there was no time to turn and run. Dipping into training, from nowhere, I drop the chair in the bushes, shout “GET BACK” in a scary voice I didn't know I had, and as he reaches me, deliver what is known as a double palmed chest strike (sorry if that's the wrong name to you experts out there).

    Now after you deliver this (according to our training), you turn and run, as fast and as far as possible. Unfortunately I also have a crew mate and a milk bottle in the property and no easy way out.

    As luck would have it, and to my utter surprise, what they taught us in training school actually worked and he is knocked back about 2 feet. I recreat the distance between us, on hyper alert, waiting to see what happens next. He however is more surprised than I am (I'm 5'4″, slilght built and female), looks at me for a moment then steps to one side. Gingerly I pick up my chair, walk past him, thanking him as I go, and enter the house, shutting the door fast behind me. I briefed my crew mate that we had trouble outside and asked control for police attendance (to be on the safe side) and by the time we had transferred the patient to the carry chair and down the stairs the police were there. Matey was nowhere to be seen.

    Had there been a delay, we would have had a dilemma. Sit tight and wait for the police to ensure our safety, or go out and run the gamut potentially endangering both ourselves and the patient. Given that the outcome of this case was that the patient was about to arrest (as it turned out), can you imagine how that would have looked on the complaint form?

    We are badly in a lose lose situation sometimes. Is it any wonder that sometimes we lose? Furthermore, the public all believe we are some superhuman species. Bad news guys. We are only human too. (sighs deeply once more)

  17. I'm sorry to say this, but the public are whinging, moaning half-wits. I have lost count of the number of times I have rung callers back, who have then been extremely abusive and offensive to me, and have then accused ME of being rude to THEM. When I explain that all LAS telephone conversations are recorded, they suddenly become VERY VERY apologetic. Funny that…. All of a sudden its…. Errrmmm Well ….If you can please send an ambulance when you can, please, no hurry .like, errrmmm …. sorry. Twats.

  18. For all the complaints there are probably ten times the number of people who are happy and whose lives were saved. People tend not to call in to compliment the good stuff but always have the energy to complain about the bad stuff. If I ever get great service somewhere I make it a special point to let the boss know.Dominic A. Carone, Ph.D.

    Founder and Webmaster of MedFriendly.com and The MedFriendly blog.

  19. Dear god, there really are some people with no life out there. Nothing to do of an afternoon, nothing on the telly? Let's report an ambulance crew for something completely ridiculous. The trouble with a job dealing with the public is that a good 65% of 'the public' are prats and you can guarantee that most of the time you will end up dealing with one of this 65%. In days gone by natural selection would have ensured that pillocks like these were eaten by something hairy with enormous teeth before they even reached puberty.

  20. You, and Mayat the Egyptian Goddess of Truth (okay I'm rambling!) are on one mission here: “Expect to treated like gods.”

    = “I whined and no-one gave me 5 x what I'd paid for. I'm calling Watchdog!!”

    ” Exaggerate and invent for effect.”

    = “I called all week and no-one took my call!” = I called twice, neither time did I deign to leave a message, I am a hystrical tcun.

    “Like to express their views moan.”

    = There is no view that's not, a moan. Not for most of those tossers. I NOW go out of my way to compliment good work, but even I didn't know better before. Feedback – moany4r5ed tncu.

    “Panic easily.”

    = There's a better way to panic?! PANIC NOW!! PANIC FAST!! Ego baby not fed, throw toys out of pram, maximum velocity and don't mind the collateral damage.

    “Are total – fill in relevant word/phrase here. “

    = UCNT. Universal College of Nasty Tossers.

    There are many things I could say about this, very late, comment on Tom's lovely blog, the only one that's probably relevant is that typing this has lowered my blood pressure considerably, and I'm so much less likely to be found with body parts blocking my bidet now….!

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