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