Psychic Computing

A couple of months ago we had a quiet start to the day – three crews all sitting on station waiting for someone to be sick. It was lovely. We sat around, had a cup of tea and chatted. We talked about some of the jobs we'd been on and about a new violent regular patient. We did some informal teaching and generally renewed the sense of teamwork between those crews.

It was unusual, but very, very valuable. It's why I can remember it four or five months later.

But that's not going to happen anymore because, from yesterday, we have the brilliant new idea of 'Active Area Cover'.

Active Area Cover means that we will no longer spend more than thirty minutes on station. Between the hours of 8am and 10pm if we are not out on a job we will be expected to go to an area to either sit in the cab of the ambulance waiting for a call, or roam around in a half mile radius.

Outside those hours we may be sent to different stations, or sent to sit outside a hospital.

We are to remain at these locations for up to an hour before being allowed to return to station. Or if we keep getting sent jobs then we are to be given three chances to go to the cover point before being allowed back to station.

The idea behind this is that it will reduce our activation time by a whole 60 seconds, while also putting us closer to the next job that is about to come in.

But how, I hear you ask, do our management know where the next call is coming from? Well, we have a brand new piece of software that can see into the future. Connected to a crystal ball it uses past trends to tell us where the next person to fall off a ladder will be. I wonder if anyone will be able to connect it up to the lottery numbers…

Now, while there is evidence that the psychic computer can be of some use in rural settings, according to my crewmate who studied the system for her degree, in urban settings it's effectiveness is unproved.

Essentially the population density is such that a computer system like this is almost certainly worthless.

I'm 6'1″ tall and lanky with it, I get a bad back from sitting in a cab as much as I do anyway – this new policy can only increase the amount of time that I spend cramped up there. The rare occasions when we get back to station is a chance to use a clean toilet that hasn't been used by infectious patients in the A&E department and maybe even get a cup of tea.

I'm dreading it, or I would if we weren't bouncing from job to job anyway.

And the purpose behind this? Well, obviously it's to meet targets. Getting to a patient one minute quicker won't matter in 99% of the jobs that we do. The psychic computer will be useless, as useless as the automated dispatch we have been using for the last few months.

And before you ask, yes, the unions did agree to this, apparently it was going to be even harsher than this, I can hardly see how.

Once more it will pit those in Control on the phones against road staff, it's not Control's fault they they will be ringing us up on station telling us to go to our standby points with 'the same urgency as an emergency call but without lights and sirens', but they will get the brunt of the bad feeling – not the bright sparks who thought this idea up.

Staff morale will decrease and sickness will increase. Floggings will continue until morale improves.

Patient care won't change, it may even get worse – especially if the computer is wrong. I suspect that our targets will continue to plummet slide.

What is needed is either less patients or more ambulances, and these ways of 'working more efficiently' are all trying to disguise this truth.

22 thoughts on “Psychic Computing”

  1. This does NOT work in rural areas either.And, what works in urban areas does not always work in rural areas as well.

    They now like us to leap into our vehicles and go mobile no later than 30 seconds after Control inform us that we have a RED. So, we now can get to a job in 7 seconds quicker than a few months ago. Never mind that the job we are attending is 35 miles away due to the pitiful cover that exists in rural GB!

    If we don't activate ourselves in that time we are asked why.

    Seems like 'to go to the loo' doesn't cut the mustard!

    Stand-by/cover/jump cover has existed here for an eternity. Whilst we accept that it happens the true scary side is that we find ourselves potentially covering an area 50miles X 50miles – regularly.

    The environment is certainly not no.1 on the various Trusts agendas.

    We don't have the same volume of calls so now (for me) looking at things the way they are in cities/big towns it's obvious that crews need to stop.Stop and chill. And not just at mismanaged break times.

    Between jobs, stopping for five minutes to chill over a cup of water would be a huge step forward (tea/coffee for those who need their tannine/caffeine fix ;0)) It would not only improve morale but help crew health.

    One day, maybe someone will look at the carers and realise that we need a positive response and not to be whipped at every opportunity.

    TR – it's hard to think that your Union was happy with this but even harder to fathom what worse scenario could've existed!

    I hear myself saying over and over again… the job is fine. It's the management that makes it harder than it should be.

  2. I'm not impressed with this either.I can – without a crystal ball – tell that a large number of elderly people will fall out of bed all over London at approx 06:30 most mornings; on Fri/Sat nights there will be drunken fights at around midnight on any High Street/Broadway/Centre that has any number of pubs/bars/nightclubs; on Sat afternoon/Sun morning stupid people will twist/strain/sprain ankles playing football; in appalling weather conditions there will be awful traffic accidents on the A4/M11/A406/A13/A40 etc etc.

    Its not – as they say – rocket science. BUT, no-one can possibly guess – using computer software, crystal ball or anything else – specifically WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHAT. Its impossible. I've sat on sector desks bored to tears one moment, then next thing you know it kicks off big-time in one area, whilst the other side of the manor remains as quiet as the grave.

    Morever, if a third of the ambulances we aresupposed to have on a partic shift are un-manned (as is often the case) who the hell are we supposed to “dynamically deploy”??

    Oh – since fuel is so expensive at the moment, isn't our fuel bill (not to mention the much-vaunted LAS Carbon Footprint) going to increase monumentally??? And – as you say – sitting in an ambo cab seat for the best part of twelve hours a day is more likely to assist the promotion process, by ensuring large numbers of staff retire on heath grounds with bad backs!!

    It'll all end in tears – mark my words!!!

  3. what about pollution? all ambulances driving around when there's no job will increase pollution, oh and cost more in diesel.. your costs will go up, then they'll lay off some ambulance staff due to budget shortages so there will be less cover, your response times will get worse.. can u see what my crystal ball is saying?

  4. yesterday was on shift… greened up at hospital and as we were rolling back towards station we were asked to go to another local station for this area cover. just as we sat down in the mess room, got a call… to a job just round the corner from the station we were working out of. That's argument enough for me ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. My otherhalf has the great misfortune to work in a patient-facing role at Maidstone Hospital, a name familiar to all in the south east who follow HNS stories. Following the hospital's dreadful showing last year the report criticised them for……paying too much attention to government targets.

    Abandon hope all ye who enter here..?

  6. Just stick two ambulances outside every pub between 8pm-1am and the patient will start to be treated inside 30 seconds of being bottled. Then the time save can be deducted from the instances where the ambulance arrived outside the allotted target time.Once averaged out, the attendance times should much in keeping with targets.Or simply do what the police are doing – getting rid of targets.

  7. This is similar to the policy of having wards chock a block full every day and night and what do we get? Tired nurses, patients mixed up on inappropriate wards, MRSA, C diff. When I started nursing we used to use the spare time for cleaning and tidying and preparing for the next onslaught.Nowadays patients are chucked out before they are well enough (often readmitted) and the staff are at full stretch because none of the patients can do much self caring.

    This isn't that recent, my Mum was in a bed next to a skin graft patient when she had pneumonia and that was about 16 years ago.

    As you say, what works in a rural area won't necessarily work in an urban one. We need to get rid of targets and get some common sense instead!

  8. So let me get this right…The price of fuel is costing the NHS -like the other emergency services and the rest of us- far more each year, so their reaction to this is to have ambulances “roam around in a half mile radius”. In a low gear in city traffic. Using fuel and adding to the pollution. (Is this some kind of 'patient creation scheme' to cause asthmatics to have attacks due to fumes?)

    Hmmmn. Sound a bit of a strange cure for rising fuel prices. I thought the days of driving around for the hell of it went out with the fuel crisis in the '70's?

    I wonder if and Gordon Boris know their ambulances are going to be adding to the city's pollution levels and carbon emissions like this? Might be a thought to ask…

  9. Actually, they may be onto something with this 'psychic computer' thing. In future just tap on your sat nav a bit, then tell any time wasting 'patients' that “the computers says NO” when you asked it if they were really sick and needed to go to hospital….

  10. I read an article in the Economist way back that said that the old British Gas engineers were good (back when they were good…) because of all the time they spent back at the depot, chatting about boilers and drinking tea and basically training each other. When it got privatised, of course this was inefficient so they were all sent out in their vans to sit in laybys and drink tea and read the Sun. No problem for a few years, while the old engineers were still with the company, but as the new ones came on stream then the old informal training started to be missed…I can't remember the exact details, but basically if a magazine like the Economist says there's value to be had in staff sitting around sharing information and cups of tea, perhaps the LAS could be persuaded…

  11. Not surprisingly, the fuckwits who think up these fantastic schemes do not actually do any work on the road in ambulances, or in EOC any longer. They think up these half-witted ways of working, then sit back taking all the kudos when (and if) they work, then blame road and control staff when they don't work.

  12. Surely when they sited ambulance stations they were put in pretty much the optimum positions for getting to the patients. I'm aware that patterns may have changed since then, but surely what we should be doing if they aren't in ideal positions now is move the stations rather than have people sat in ambulance cabs for hours on end?

  13. Similair thing apparently on the way here. We already do standby at two “roadside” points in the city. Have been told not to have the engine running when parked up to save on fuel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. they have had to allow us to drive around the area as they recognise that parking up on the side of the road may, in certain parts of London, be a bad idea for maintaining your personal safety…

  15. back in the 90's that program was called “artificial Intelligence” Or AI/ as is.Ah the good old days when young sprog is taught the art of elbow grease, or 1 d of CS.'Twas the time that one was instructed of all that not be in the book [that be experience] as the writer never touched those dirty things called tools.

  16. We've had the same Super Computer in action in South Wales.. ' Demand Analysis' they call it down here.. determines all sorts of things from manning levels, rosta's and another wonderful system.. ' Geographical Deployment'.. although officially this doesn't exist..

  17. In Sydney it's called “Fluid Deployment” I think a better name would be fluid retention. Thats what all the poor Paramedics get from sitting in the truck touring theirs and other sectors trying to save 0.001% on response KPI's

  18. We are in the process of introducing “dynamic standbys”. Basically someone in a nice air conditioned and comfortable office somewhere has got a map of the area, drawn big circles on it and in the centre of every circle placed a car or ambulance so that the mighty god ORCON can be appeased.It works really well…. (can anyone hear the sarcasm?) last week they sent me to sit at the roadside in a little town. It was very pretty, I got my book out and started to read, only to get a red call back where I was originally, and I missed ORCON, oh well the computer obviously missed that call when it was considering were to place me next!!

  19. We have a similar system in the more Central and Southerly area of the NHS. It involves staff sitting 1/2 mile from our stations in industrial estates waiting for calls. The justification for this being that we hit the buttons within 10 secs and they can claim to have mobilised us in this time.

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