It would appear that the radio system that the LAS uses has been in the news of late – claims that it doesn't work in the rain, or that vehicles are without radios.
Or vehicles use the 'Airwave' standard, a digital network shared by, amongst others, the police. We have a main set that is fixed to the ambulance and should have two handsets that we carry everywhere with us.
I can only talk personally, but in my experience the radios are often a bit flaky (but remember that this is a system that was forced on us by the government), but not any flakier than any digital phone network.
The problem is that they are digital, if they have a poor signal then they just refuse to work, unlike the old VHF analogue radios that would transmit, although over a load of static. With analogue though the human brain is a great signal filter, and so you could make yourself understood. With a digital system you just have silence.
So it's not perfect, but it's not bad – at least we have handsets now, it's been something we've been wanting for crew safety for quite some time.
As for not having radios on vehicles – I suspect that the spokesperson for the LAS is counting the main set in the vehicle as a radio (quite rightly as that is all we have had for years), but the HSE are also counting the portable handsets.
These do go missing, but there is normally at least one handset on a vehicle. When we were trained in the use of the radios we were told about the system for replacing them if one should go missing – sadly this seems to have gone out of the window.
Oh well, no change there.
The switch to digital has meant some changes. For example you can no longer hear everyone on the radio talk group, so you have no idea where your workmates are or what they are doing – this results in much less awareness at street level of the situation across your sector. I can't tell if a hospital is full or not just by listening to the radio, nor can I hear if any crew needs assistance. This makes you feel a lot more isolated on the road.
The other side effect of not hearing the rest of the talk group is that, when it is busy, you 'buzz in' to talk to Control, but you don't get an answer, all you have is what seems like an empty channel while Control seemingly ignore you. With the old system you would hear them talking to the other crews, and so you would know that they were busy so you knew you weren't being ignored.
Overall, the provision of handsets has made crews safer, although I can't comment on the panic button as I've never had to use it. Some things are better, some things are worse. But at least the LAS has made the effort and the problems are with the design of the system rather than with the LAS.
Can I also take a moment to mention one thing that I forget to write about in the last 'Transplant' post – that you should also discuss your being on the donor list with your family, so that they are prepared should the worst happen and that they know your wishes and don't overturn them. You might also be able to persuade some of them to sign up as well.
Finally, big changes coming up, but it's something that I need to sit and write with plenty of time, not fire out in the half hour before I leave for work. And I'm not just talking about the NHS White Paper.