The computer terminal in the cab of the ambulance rang.
The description of the job was blank. The address we were supposed to go to was blank. The ORCON start time wasn't blank.
The terminal continued to ring, it wanted us to press our 'on the way to the job' button.
But where were we supposed to go?
Twenty seconds later a postcode arrived on the screen. Still no proper address, still no patient complaint.
Another twenty seconds later and we had a full address, there was still nothing in the 'patient complaining of' section. We didn't know if it was one of the addresses in our area that was flagged as 'dangerous'.
Finally, a minute and a half later, the job description arrived – a young man with abdominal pain.
Then a few moments later we were cancelled as Control sent the call to our Clinical Telephone Advice desk, to see if they could determine if an ambulance really was required.
Finally I let the handbrake up and started to drive.
'Call Connect' was the new way of measuring ORCON (our eight minute response), brought in to standardise the way that ambulance trusts reported their response time. Until call connect came in, some trust started the clock when they had the address and complaint, some started in when the phone rang and some seemingly started it once the ambulance arrived on the scene…
Obviously this was unfair – so a new national standard was brought in to start the clock from the moment the patient phoned the ambulance service – as soon as BT connected the call the stopwatch starts.
What this means is that, via caller line identification, the service knows the rough area that the call is coming from and an ambulance is automatically assigned – even if we don't know the full address.
No longer do we start the clock with an address and a complaint – so we could be sent into 'man walking around shooting people indiscriminately' without back up and without warning. All to make a (pointless) government target.
It doesn't just mean that we are placing ambulance crews in more danger (because, being generally cynical swines, we'll sit by the side of the road until we get some relevant information). If you go racing off to a call that you get cancelled on a few moments later you are putting the general public at risk.
On more than one occasion I've been sent on, and cancelled, five times in the space of a minute – you end up dizzy while continuously doing three point turns in the middle of the road only to be cancelled and sent in the direction you were originally travelling in.
Crew safety is no longer a priority it would seem (if it ever was), instead it's just more chasing of the clock.
I wish someone up in our management would have the bollocks to take the government to task over the utterly pointless and now dangerous ORCON target.
But it was my boss, and governmental advisor, that thought up the new way of recording the time, so I don't think it'll be him.
I'm bunkering down at the moment, I need to have the sequel to 'Blood, Sweat and Tea' in to my publishers this Friday – I really should make a start on it…