Not Fooled

The police officer met us outside the station. Both ourselves and the FRU had driven fast through the traffic to reach the station. To be honest, our driving fast may have been because we we due off shift in around twenty minutes. We don't like having to go home late.

“Sorry gents”, the officer apologised, “we nicked him for shoplifting, then he said he had difficulty in breathing and our Doc said he's not fit to detain”.

“No worries mate”, I told him, “where is our punter”.

The officer pointed to a dishevelled man sitting on the bench.

“He's a heroin addict”, the officer told me.

Never mind, I thought, do the necessary and pop him into hospital no skin off my nose.

The man, our patient, stood up and gathering his things walked towards me.

“What seems to be the problem?”, I asked.

The man then proceeded to puff air out his mouth in what I can only describe as the world's worse attempt to fake an difficult. I took a step back to get away from the cone of foul smelling junkie breath that washed over me.

“I. Can't. Breath.” He whispered between puffs. “Asthma.”, he added as a coda.

“That ain't what asthma sounds like”, I told him, “C'mon out to the ambulance. Is he still under arrest?”, I asked the officer.

“Nope, we bailed him – he's free to go”.


Once we got in the ambulance, the man's attitude changed completely – from apparently being unable to breathe he started to breathe normally and a big grin spread over his face.

“So”, I asked, knowing the answer before the question left my lips, “How long have you had problems with your breathing”.

He cackled, “Since I got arrested”.

“Are you telling me you faked it?”, I asked, again not needing to hear the answer.

“Yeah, well I wouldn't have got bail would I?”.

Images of murder flashed through my head, lingering a little longer than normal on the incredibly painful ones.

I took a deep breath. Then another one because the first one didn't calm me.

“What does it say on the side of this ambulance”, I demanded.

“Ambulance?”, he said.

“What else?”


“It says 'Emergency', not 'get out of jail free'. It's a good job you convinced the doctor, otherwise I'd march you right back in the for wasting my time.”

“Why would you do that?”, he whinged, “that's not very nice”.

“Because, you idiot, I could be going to someone who is really sick, not someone who's faking it to get out of trouble”. I didn't add that I could have escaped going home late after a twelve hour shift with no break as well.

I continued, “All my patients today have been lovely, but you had to go and ruin a pleasant day”.

“Don't be like that”, he whined.

I decided to spend the rest of the journey in silence. Just in case I said something that I would later regret. It was obvious that this person's universe began and ended with him. Consideration of other people just wasn't in his programming. It was this that made me angry, not the thought that he considered himself smart enough to fool us into treating him.

I still did all the clinical things that I would be expected to do, but instead of my normal kind words and a gentle explanations I did them in silence. Quite literally biting my tongue.


We got to the hospital where he tried lighting up a cigarette in the waiting room – until I told him to take it outside. You could almost hear his brain thinking 'but it's cold out there''. So we left him, sitting in a waiting room for a 'cough' that only barely existed.

I left, knowing full well that were he so inclined, he could complain about my 'attitude' and I'd end up disciplined. Meanwhile I write it here, in the public domain, to show you the sorts of things we really have to put up with.

So the next time you hear about people waiting too long for ambulances, consider for a moment the patient above. That might be why the ambulance arrives later than expected.

13 thoughts on “Not Fooled”

  1. No Doctor, especially not a police Doctor, would have been convinced by this mans pretense at asthma any more than you were. Askng someone with a heavy cold 'So what part of what your symptoms do you think constitute an emergency'? is a question that we dare not ask. The worse thing of all all is that in these circumstances, the most we can do is to sheepisly pass them on, with apologies, to the nearset A&E department.Our system works on trust and the common sense of the general public….when that fails or is taken advantage of, we just end up in la la land….all you can do then is decide which of the teletubbies you want to be and proceed accordingly.

  2. As I read your stories, I'm reminded of a time when I was a participant in someone trying to get a free ride/warm bed from the ambulance and hospital.I live in the states, and coming home one winter night a few years ago a homeless guy in the alley asked me to call an ambulance for him, as he thought he was having a heart attack. As he seemed fairly active and not in distress, not to mention unworried by the fact that I was still a couple minutes walk from home and a phone, I called the non-emergency number, explained the situation to them, and they specifically asked if I thought he was at all intoxicated. A few minutes later the police showed up, followed by an ambulance. In my experience the police don't normally come out, so I sort of wonder if the response here isn't a little different. The ambulance comes if you call, but if they decide you're yanking their chain, you may end up spending the night in the clink instead of the hospital.

  3. Who is really at fault here? The one who gets away with this act, or the ones in authority who create the conditions to allow it to happen?Grizzly's post shows how it should be done.

  4. Is there any way of “reprogramming” people like that or all we doomed to a future where they make up a large proportion, or, heaven forbid, the majority?

  5. Everyone seeks a good biological feedback. pleasure not pain.As long as the MOP get pleasure [cost free] from getting free help, then not a thing will change.People do not seek conventional pain as a reward, but pain to most is a pain ,it hurts, but to a few { 5/10%} that what 80% call pain is pleasurable.Thus for the perpetual drunk, Hospital bed or P. cell be better than sleeping on ice, but there will be an exception as it is possible there be one that does like cold [yuk]. A possible solution would be for some to go a morgue and let them the sleep it off next to poor mangled RTA. [Guess not PC] Fining is usually not a help as only the tax payer pays twice.Here in La La land it costs me 4 days income to have an ambulance ride, and another 2 months income plus hours to lie in wait for “me” Vitals to be taken, so it be best for me to be semi comatose and sleep off “me” 'angove' or have very good reason to visit an ER.Many blue moons ago in the days of the cane, my fellow class mates came in 3 styles, 1, show the cane and the water works were at full tilt [they be the sissies], 2, the stoic ones, take 3 wacks then grin and bear it then in private would yell blue words, then there be THE one, that would get 12 wacks and would just laugh in the face of the giver then go round show us weaker ones the results and brag.Punishments and rewards have to adjusted to the Individual.1000 quid fine for speeding for Millionaire is laughable [risible] but to one that gets peanuts it is a disaster.'Tis why the rich get richer. All time wasters should made to clean up vomit and gore with a teaspoon.

  6. Two o clock in the morning and we are called to a 999. 'Male, 23 y/o complaining of a swollen thumb…has had it for three weeks!'This 'gentleman' demanded to be taken to A/E to get his thumb looked at! Even though I explained diplomatically that he would not get seen until long gone seven in the morning due to the back log in a/E he still insisted on going to hospital.

    My next tack was to educate him about the misuse of emergency services…did'nt bother him…his thumb hurt and he wanted it sorted.

    Next tack was to look in more detail at his thumb and give it a proper examination. Yep it was slightly swollen and yep it hurt…especially when I checked for range of movement. It was probably infected and he needed to see his GP to get antibiotics.

    He still wanted to go to A/E. I then said okay, get walking you should be there in about 5 minutes!

    He lived less than a half mile from the A/E!!!

    At my suggestion of him walking there he started swearing at me…'Thankyou and good night!'

    We left and relayed to control his abusive behaviour. A complete and absolute tosser who cared for no one but himself and had the logical prowess and reasoning ability of a turd!!!

  7. Sounds like an ideal candidate for the plod to utilise this piece of legislation:

    Carry a copy in your useful folder, works like a charm.

  8. Sounds like every day where I work. I am in A&E, and we see the same lot, day in and day out. When I worked at Charing Cross A&E, there was this bloke who would phone for an ambulance from the top of the hill, come in to A&E complaining of chest pain, and then leave before he was seen, only to walk to the top of the hill and phone for an ambulance again. He did this for over 2 weeks, about 3 or 4 calls a day, until we showed him the discomfort that certain tests caused – he stopped after a few arterial blood gas samples…

  9. You should document his words about faking difficulty breathing. Any complaints will involve a review of the chart. His words should be used against him.

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