When we are called to a drunk in the street we have a number of options open to us. Well, we have four options, but realistically we only have two.
Leave them where they are – either they aren't that drunk, or they have friends who will look after them. We don't do this that often as it will only take one of them to then waltz out into traffic and get their fool arse killed to lose you your job.
Call the police. If there is nothing wrong with them then surely we should call the police, after all it's not a medical problem really is it? Realistically, it's the police who call us to get rid of the drunks and one too many death in custody cases means that custody sergeants are loathe to have drunk in their cells. I can't really blame them.
The commonest one – take the drunken idiot to hospital, then we have been seen to have done our job in removing them to a place of safety. Of course, in many of these cases the A&E department isn't the place for them. Where we should be taking them is to a cot in a tent where minimally trained (and therefore cheap) people can look after them until they sober up.
As these places don't exist (except on special occasions like New Year's Eve in central London) the 'patient' ends up in A&E where they can cause a load of trouble for the staff and other patients.
We take them home, we leave them with someone who is at least a little bit responsible and then make ready for our next job. It works if we know where they live and that they aren't too drunk to stand. This gets us clear of the patient quicker than if we were to take them to hospital, it frees the hospital from having to look after the person concerned, and the drunkard is safe in their own bed.
As mentioned, we don't do options One and Two, we often use option Three and we can also, at our discretion, end up using option Four a fair bit as well.
The on-duty paramedic was caught on camera dropping five women, who were swigging from a bottle of wine, at a train station. One of his passengers even kissed him farewell as they stumbled out of the emergency vehicle in full view of hundreds of people celebrating St Patrick's Day.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked and couldn't believe what I was seeing,” said Paul King, a photographer who saw the scene. “I am sure taxpayers would be delighted to know that they are paying for paramedics to operate as a free taxi service for drunken women. “It is absolutely disgusting and what worries me is the number of real emergencies that were kept waiting while this was going on.” The paramedic, who has not been identified, works for private ambulance company MediForce and was contracted by the South Central Ambulance Service to provide ambulance cover in Reading on Wednesday night.
“Our responder was informed by a member of the public that one of the members of a group of females was having difficulty and kept falling over around the corner from his location,” he said. “He responded at normal speed to the location and found four females, one of whom was lying on the floor. He inquired if assistance was required and, after assessing that there was no injury or illness that required hospital intervention, he took the four females at normal speed without turning on his emergency lights or sirens to Reading train station so that they could make their way home safely.
Now, like most ambulance stories in the newspapers, I'm sure there are several details missing – however, going on what has been written this 'Paramedic' (the private company only refer to him as a 'responder', not a Paramedic), seems to have done nothing different than what regular ambulance crews, certainly across London, do every night.
I'd like to direct Mr King to the years of archive material in this blog to show him that I am often used as a 'free taxi', by drunks and non-drunks alike.
It seems to me that the responder did nothing wrong, and in fact acted with full duty of care. Certainly I would have done much the same in the same situation.
(Well… Actually I'm not brave enough to have drunk women alone in a car with me – just in case one of them makes an allegation against me. It's happened to crews in the past and I've been threatened with it myself. It's one of the many reasons why I'm glad I've got a female crewmate).
What were his other options? Leave them in the street – then the headline would be 'Paramedic leaves my injured daughter in the street'.
Take her to hospital, despite not needing to go?
Wait for an ambulance to come and take her to hospital? Thereby tying him and the ambulance up with a rubbish job when they could be going to see one of those 'real emergencies' that I've heard about but haven't personally seen in the last four months.
I'm no fan of private ambulance services doing 999/A&E work – and if I had the motivation I'd do an exposé on what the coming privatisation of the ambulance service will mean for patient care. But in this case the responder did a sensible thing, his company even say he did things for the drunk's safety.
…and still ends up suspended.
(I suspect he wouldn't have been suspended if the newspapers hadn't got a hold of this non-story).
I always though I had to watch out for being punched, stabbed or run over – looks like the biggest danger to my career is someone talking to a newspaper.