I've written before about our 'psychic computer' and the new policy of Active Area Cover (AAC), we've been told that it is to improve the public perception of the service and to better let us hit those rather pointless government targets.
If you remember (or reread the article) it involves a computer that was no doubt bought at considerable expense which predicts where calls are going to come from next Something that I firmly believe in a urban setting like London to be utter hokum.
But it would appear that it's not always being relied on, and instead those high up in management are making things up as they go along.
Consider the following two bits of evidence that I have collected personally over the last two days.
In the first episode, we were told to go on Active Area Cover on a street 0.2 miles distant from our station. As the policy lets us roam around within a radius of 0.5 miles I informed Control that we would therefore return to station and wait for a call there, incidentally allowing me to have my first cup of tea of the day. Our dispatcher agreed.
Then I suspect that someone had a word with her because she called us up less than 20 seconds later to move our AAC point much further away.
Surely if this is a science then the first AAC point would have been the best and it would mean that we shouldn't be moved seemingly on a whim just to keep us from the station.
The second episode was just as foolish. We are not supposed to be put on AAC within half an hour of the end of our shift. So I was surprised to be told to go out with just 12 minutes left in the window of opportunity. Well, I'm not allowed to refuse, so I asked where the psychic computer was telling me to go – for hasn't it scientifically predicted where the next call will be?
“Oh, go anywhere”, I was told.
So with 42 minutes to go to the end of a twelve hour shift we were being told to go and drive around for twelve whole minutes.
I'm in the process of reading a book at the moment concerning American ambulance workers, and one part seems particularly apt – in it a supervisor is asked about how to manage ambulance staff and he replies that, as we are trained to gather evidence about a person's illness or injury in three minutes, we question everything. You can't just tell us that 'this is the way we are going to do things' and expect us to roll over and do it without some form of explanation or evidence.
A good example of this is the CPR guidelines that keep changing based on evidence – we have no problem in adapting our practice to use the latest evidence, and no-one questions it.
So here is the challenge – I know management read this blog. I want management to provide me with scientific, peer-reviewed evidence that Active Area Cover works in a high population density area. I don't want the marketing guff that the software company sends you – I want proper evidence. After all, isn't evidence what all modern medicine should be about.
I'd also like an assurance that the system is being used properly, and not to 'punish' crews. Is there an audit in place for example to see which manager sends which crews out?
Until I get that reassurance I will continue to suggest that the best thing for ambulance efficiency would be to buy the management in Control a load of cat toys, and let them play with catnip woollen mice rather than get bored and annoy road crews (and the poor dispatchers who have to phone us up and give us the bad news that we aren't allowed to remain on station).
On a more amusing note, two things which have lived up my shifts of late.
The first was when I asked a woman how many children she had given birth to and she answered, 'six or seven, I can't remember'.
The other was the GP who told a mother that the best way to get earwax out of her five year-old child's ear was to use eardrops and then root around with a cotton bud. Needless to say we were sent to the child after her ear started bleeding. As I've always been told that you shouldn't stick anything in your ear smaller than your finger, I suspect that this GP may have bought his GP certificate from a market stall.
Either that or the mother was mistaken – it happens sometimes.