More On ‘Meal Breaks’

An investigation has been launched after an ambulance took 22 minutes to reach a dying pensioner.

Ernie Rutkiewicz, 82, from Glasgow, choked on his dinner last Thursday and died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

The crew which attended could not be assigned to the emergency any earlier as they were on a meal break.

Under rules, ambulance crews are entitled to a half-hour break during their shift and cannot be disturbed during that period.

The meal break rule was introduced in Scotland as part of a UK-wide initiative called Agenda for Change, which affects NHS pay and conditions.

This is a sad story and I feel very sorry for the patient and his family.

Once more it is meal breaks that are 'to blame' for someone dying rather than there being a lack of ambulances to cover for the legally mandated rest breaks. The ambulance crew involved would not have even known about the call. For all intents and purposes during a rest break the crew are not being paid and are therefore not on duty.

(And it's a 'rest break', not a 'meal break', there is nothing making the employer provide an ability to eat food).

However, the last time I saw a story like this, the newspaper involved claimed that two ambulance crews were on a rest break – when actually their vehicles were broken and they were off the road waiting for them to be fixed.

I've just done four twelve hour shifts, I've only had one rest break on all those shifts. Most folks work eight hour days and would expect a break at some point.

My next set of shifts is eight hours long, and they are an absolute doddle considering our 'normal' shifts are twelve hours long.

I wonder if the investigation into this particular case will ask what other ambulances were doing? Were they covering GP who refuses to see patients? Were they rushing through the streets to a drunkard in the street? Were they going to someone who wanted an excuse to knock off work early? Where they running to someone who'd taken too much heroin? Were they trying to find a hoaxed call? Were they going to someone who just wasn't home?

It's too easy to suggest that the reason this man died was because of rest breaks as opposed to the much more complicated mixture of a lack of ambulances, too many inappropriate calls and that we are doing everyone else's job these days.

But that is less likely to 'sell' the news.

13 thoughts on “More On ‘Meal Breaks’”

  1. I don't quite understand how the paper knows there was a crew ona rest break.This must have been released by the ambulance service. So why did they release that information?

    Why couldn't they say “the nearest ambulance on duty was xx miles away (i.e. the nearest ambulance crew wasn't on duty. However xx minutes later another ambulance crew (i.e. the one on a meal break) came on duty and responded, arriving within x minutes.”

    When a crew is on a rest break, they may not be at the ambulance station. During day shifts, I often pop into town, do some shopping or take a walk to destress.

    The service shouldn't release if a crew is on a break. They are off duty. They are a non-crew. they don't exist.



  2. “HEAR bloomin' HEAR”So when exactly are you up for office? Nice politician hours with nice salary and warm office …..

    I'd vote for you in a second !! You'd be amazed (or possibly not) at how many would …



  3. We hear similar complaints fairly often; apparently some of the local citizens who have nothing better to do than listen to EMS radio dispatches and time us from dispatch to response assume the entire department is home having a beer and watching the game and we take our own sweet time getting to the house. No one seems to want to hear that a combination of BS calls, an all-volunteer force, employers who won't allow anyone who works locally to leave for a call, and an eggshell-fragile local economy that forces a lot of people to work 40+ miles from town makes coverage thin during certain hours. Its especially pleasant to get out of bed at 4:30 in the morning and stand blinking and disoriented in the overwarm living room of someone with hives getting told off because it took us 15 minutes to get there.

  4. It would take an ambulance *32* minutes to reach us, assuming they were already in the ambo with the engine running and no traffic on our road – so how does that skew the figures?

  5. My last stint of four weekend nightshifts, in and around Glasgow, involved one “genuine” job in 48 hours. The rest were either drunks or people who could have waited until Monday to see their own GP. Will the newspapers listen to that..??

  6. Absolutely agree with you Jinky! Let's hope that as the readership of this blog is increasing all the time, that someone, somewhere, will take note of all the points Reynolds raises. It is so-o-o unfair. Any press people reading? Think on! Some of us do like to read the truth and not the slanted spin. I haven't bought a newpaper for over 12 years because of the quality of 'news'. If I saw one that carried proper news like this, I might just buy one again.

  7. I've just done 12hr nights in 9 days and not had one genuine patient. We went 7 jobs without the need to transport the patient, arranged alternative treatments etc.

  8. Blimey, you lot do put in the hours don't you? I'm amazed anyone wants to work for the ambulance service, you work stupid hours for not enough pay, you get abuse, violence and time wasters, you are always getting blamed for things in the papers and the management of your service is subject to ludicrous government intervention which everyone knows is a recipe for disaster. Well I just wanted to say that most of us out there think you all do an amazing job and anyone I know who has ever called an ambulance has had nothing but praise for the crew that attended. Keep up the good work, despite what the media like to put across you ARE valued by the public and we DO appreciate what you do. We also understand that in a 12 hour shift you require a few minutes to sit down, have a brew and relax and we DON'T believe that you are ignoring heart attack victims in order to sit in KFC.

  9. This is pretty much what everyone else has said, have done 4 x 12 hour shifts and a few overtime ones for good measure, have had a grand total of 1 job that required an ambulance, all the others were a complete pile of tosh. Now from time to time yes we do get to do a run of decent jobs, but its few and far between now a days.As for the story, there never seems to be mention of the dispatch people. Now as far as I am concerned, we do what they ask us to, whether that is go on jobs/standbys/rest periods. Or do the press think we are sitting in our ambulances answering the phones too??

    Regardless of that, is twenty minutes to sit down, shovel some food down the throat and if your lucky have a cuppa too much to ask in a twelve hour shift? Oh sorry I forgot, we are “superhuman” and run on batteries……

    or am I just a little jaded after a long night shift, where I only saw one patient who got close to requiring an ambulance, the other 10 where complete donuts.

    night night …………

  10. Every cup of tea today was left unfinished. Breakfast went through the microwave twice, lunch got microwaved 3 times. All the ancillary bits to lunch (mini cheddars and blue riband bars) were eaten on the way to jobs.I am so glad my missus is a good cook and I get a hearty meal when i get home, it wasn't late tonight so dinner wasn't spoiled, a small victory on an otherwise crappy day.

    The highlight? Doctor called 999 to take 1 year old to kiddies ward 30 miles away. Mum had taken kddy into docs for chesty cough, got given amoxycillin and told to give calpol, Mum came back 2hrs later complaining that kiddy wasn't any better! Dr decides to spite Mum by sending kigddy and Mum to ward 30miles away but needed us to take them.

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