These last four days at work have been tough, it's been extremely busy and it seems, more than ever, that there just aren't enough ambulances to go around. I spoke to a friend of mine who is on the FRU and they told me that for the entire nightshift they were turning up at a job and then waiting two hours for an ambulance to arrive.
Remember – FRUs are the vehicles that are supposed to go to the most serious hospital cases…
My personal experience wasn't much dissimilar. My shift would start at 7am. Ten seconds after the shift started the activation phone would ring and all the ambulances on the station would be sent out on jobs. I was told that on one particular morning Control was queuing twenty-five calls at 7am.
One particular job made me fume, it made me angry that the patients had waited so long and yet nothing will be said about it.
The job was an hour and a half old, two pedestrians had been hit by a car. Yes – they had been run over.
Thankfully there was a policeman there and he managed to wrap one of them in a blanket. One patient wasn't too seriously hurt although he may have broken his hand, but the one on the floor had a knee that had swollen up like a watermelon.
The first thing that I did on arriving was to apologise, the policeman who was there understood how busy we were and told me that they would have taken the patient in themselves*, but that given the state of his knee they didn't want to move him.
Neither of the patients complained. Neither of the patients will complain – they come from a section of our community who seldom complain about anything, they just get on and deal with it.
I later returned to the hospital and saw the x-ray of the man's leg. He'd rather neatly broken his leg just above the knee (a supracondylar fracture), he was still refusing painkillers.
So how long had he laid on the floor in the early hours of the morning with a serious fracture of the leg (and possibly other more life-threatening injuries)? An hour and a half. In the middle of London.
It won't be on the news because the patients won't complain and yet I would guess that this wasn't the only instance of this happening during my four days of work.
It's not working, this ambulance service, we either need more fully trained and crewed ambulances, or less calls – I can't see us getting less calls and the way we may be getting extra ambulances isn't too good either if the rumours are to be believed.
In our area we are supposedly at 70% staffing, and this is based on levels determined some years ago.
There are many times when I feel proud to work for the LAS, the way we deal with heart attacks, the way we deal with many disparate communities and the way that the crews on the road are able to deal with any crisis. But this episode made me feel shame.
How we fail may be a bit of a thread in the near future, I'll try to keep it positive by suggesting ways in which we can change for the better – not that anyone will listen.
*After reaching the hospital one of the nurses told me that the police had been transporting asthma attack patients into hospital – this isn't the first time that the police in our area have transported a patient. I've seen them transporting RTA victims in the past.