Making More Victims

Once more a man who sits in an office, surrounded by others who sit in an office and is supported by newspaper writers who also sit in offices says that emergency services should put themselves at risk.

And the ambulance and police staff who do this are having their pay frozen and their pensions changed.

I suppose that this means that there is one new way of saving money – we can stop paying for all those ‘Please do not assault our staff’ posters – after all, if ambulance crews and the police are to go into areas where an indiscriminate killer is roaming without armament with which to defend themselves, then all NHS workers can put up with a bit of a beating if it’s for an ’emergency’.

It’s not about the pay, it’s about the job role. When I was in the ambulance service I was there to help people by providing medical support – not to get killed in the line of duty.  Ambulance personnel are not soldiers, they are not police. I wasn’t there to break up pub fights, disarm knife-wielding maniacs or find myself under fire.

Ambulance crews should not be sent into uncontrolled scenes where they, and the people they are looking to help, become a big target with blue flashing lights for someone with a grudge.

Ambulance crews do not have the kit, or the training, to deal with a violent aggressor (apart from ‘run away’, something only slightly more helpful than ‘stand your ground’ when up against an armed assailant). A shot or injured ambulance crew would just become additional victims which would place even more stress on an already overburdened system.

(Of course, then a coroner might suggest that injured ambulance crews go to the back of the line for medical treatment so that ‘the public’ are fully protected, neglecting that ambulance workers are ‘the public’ as well).  It bears mentioning that the first rule of major incident planning is to prevent any increase in the number of people that you need to treat.

I think that should a similar event happen again we should get the nearest coroner and get them to wander around the scene where a gunman is roaming and see how they like it.  Give them a box of bandages so that they can feel useful while doing their tour. Same for the journalists, they can go hunting for the suspect armed with nothing more than a cheap digital camera. After all, is it not the duty of journalists to get the ‘real story’, and for coroners to see out ‘all the information’?

10 thoughts on “Making More Victims”

  1. Righteous anger there Brian. Being told to stand off must be the hardest thing a medic can endure, but to be slagged off for it, unendurable.

  2. I agree. The coroner presumably thinks that insane gunmen will ignore the ambulance workers when in fact he will probably target them as they represent "the man". Or maybe if we get a big enough pile of dead ambo staff, it will provide some protection for people ?

    And grieving relatives are not objective whitnesses. If I'd lost someone close in gun or bomb attack, I'd probably demand to know why the emergency services hadn't rushed in and suffered the same fate. At that point you aren't thinking straight and are looking for someone to blame. In this country we tend to blame officialdom rather than the perpetrators (e.g. Baby P – it wasn't Social Services who struck the fatal blow, but they are the ones the media is blaming for everything) and people want someone punished.

  3. I sort of agree with what you are saying. Ambulence crews do not have the training or equipment to go into that kind of situation, but on the other hand I also believe that it is titally unacceptable to leave an injured person lying in the street for ages without doing anything to help. Some solution has to be found.

    Maybe the solution is to have a small number of specially trained paramedics ready to attend that kind of situation. They could be equiped with bullet proof ambulences and body armour and of course should be paid some kind of danger premium. This would not be free of course, but maybe it is a price worth paying. If it is too expensive then the alternative could be to send in army medics who presumably already have the required training and equipment. This would be slower of course but if arangements were made in advance, and helicopter transport was available, should still be quick enough to be of some benifit.

  4. I find it incredible that it is suggested, as I heard on the radio today, that ambulance staff (of which i am one) should accept some residual risk as part of their job. I accept the risk every time i enter some pub/club/rtc/fight/unknown persons house with little or no information about who or what to expect. To suggest that ambulance staff should be sent to scenes that have not been declared safe is irresponsible and dangerous. To say they should be sent because there are unarmed police there suggests that the scene should have been declared safe in the first place and hints at the usual comms problems that dog the emergency services. To suggest also that paramedics "refused" to attend these scenes is an absolute disgrace, there will not be one who would have relished sitting back for the police to arrive or declare it safe.

  5. Quoting Andrew Wimble: "Maybe the solution is to have a small number of specially trained paramedics … or army medics who presumably already have the required training and equipment…"

    Military counter-sniper training is simple: Take cover first, deal with the rest later. Medics too stay behind cover until the sniper is killed / suppressed. Saving lives starts with saving your own life, otherwise the bodies just keep piling up.

  6. I'm not sure if this was *entirely* what the coroner here was getting at.

    I do not think that armbulance staff or others should be *compelled* to go into dangerous situations. However, I do think that the decision should rest with the individual crew. After all, they are probably best to take an informed call (providing control are on the ball with supplying information). As we saw in the 7/7 inquiry, there is concern about blanket orders on when crews can and cannot enter places, when the crews are willing to do so. If the crew aren't willing, I strongly doubt that anyone sensible will criticise that (tabloids do not count!).

  7. Look out for screaming headlines "Cowardly Ambulance crews leave people to die" from the red tops and BBC. All written by Journalists hiding back in the office or studio. Followed by said crews

    The point about 7/7 is that while the crews were happy to go in, there was a real chance of secondary bombs. On the ground your desire to get in and help would be overwhelming and you probably don't think of your own safety. That's why there are rules and (hopefully) clearer heads in the central control. With the benefit of hindsight of course, things look very different.

  8. I suppose if more ambulance workers suffer career-ending (or indeed life-ending) incidents, then that will help towards the 16% front line "natural wastage"…

  9. Sorry,
    The DRABC sequence is one of the biggest teachings of first aid etc. training:
    Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
    There is a reason why danger is first. Dead medics are no use to anyone. Except maybe the PR people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *