Calling an ambulance...

  Quickbeam 08:43 10 May 2007

Anyone had reason to call an ambulance in recent times?

In the years since i started driving (1974) I've occasionally had to call for an ambulance to an RTA I've either witnessed or come across... dial 999 request an ambulance... hey presto an ambulance arrives at the scene. Not an unreasonable request is it?

However in the last month I've had to call an ambulance twice. On both occasions I've been questioned on whether an ambulance is really required..."is anybody bleeding... is anybody unconscious... is anybody...?"

These questions may be relevant to the emergency services, but the underlying question is, is someone is trying to make a cost based decision as to whether or not to send an ambulance?

The answer is yes, as on both occasions when I forced the questioner, they said they have to decide if an ambulance is necessary.

My reply... " I'm not qualified to answer the questions, send a bloody ambulance... let them make the clinical decisions!"

In both of these accidents toddlers were involved. Toddlers are much more prone to neck injuries than adults. I don't know about you, but I think a toddler is no more capable of expressing an accident injury that my Spaniel is. Should it not be a basic requirement to send an ambulance to the scene of RTAs?

Yes there is a cost, but why are ambulances deployed day & night at strategic waiting places if they are not to be used when needed? It costs as much to have them on duty waiting for an accident as it does to respond to one.

What do you think? I think this tactic stinks!

  dagbladet 08:52 10 May 2007

Whilst ideally there would be a patrol car, an ambulance and a fire engine on every street corner, the harsh fact is that these resources like much else are at a premium probably through budgetry cuts. If a controller has 1 ambulance available and the control desk recieves 2 calls for that ambulance, it seems reasonable to try to ascertain which call has the greater need.

  €dstowe 09:04 10 May 2007

The quizzing is in part due to the large number of people that call out the emergency services for things that they are not emergencies.

I worked on an emergency doctor callout service in London some years ago - not an ambulance but a medically equipped motorbike - with blue light. The idea was to get through London traffic easier than an ambulance. We had callouts for headaches, toes that had been cut when trimming nails, a stuck wedding ring, a woman who'd cut her son's hair too short when the height guide came off the clippers she was using, a girl with acne, common colds and loads of others which I can't now remember.

So, it's not costs but timewasters.

  Shortstop 10:10 10 May 2007

My wife has a severe allergy to latex.

At about 2:30 one morning she was having an anaphylactic attack but her epipen did not seem to work. It was the [only] time I have had to call the emergency services. I called an ambulance and then played '20 questions' while my wife was trying to breathe. I duly answered all questions and an ambulance arrived whilst I was on the phone - the only trouble was that there was no Paramedic on board who could administer the necessary drugs to stabilise my wife. A second ambulance arrived - again, no Paramedic - and my wife went into shock [not something I ever want to witness again]. A third ambulance arrived with Paramedic on board and she was duly stabilised and transferred to hospital - but had to spend 10 days in Intensive Care which, I believe, was due to the delay in a Paramedic arriving. She is now better but we have a LONG list of things she must not touch [Bananas, computers, hoovers, etc]

So, with hindsight, I would say that I have no issue on asking questions if the Ambulance that arrives has on board what is needed. However, in my own experience, this did not happen even when the Ambulance staff themselves requested a Paramedic!



  Quickbeam 11:45 10 May 2007

I think Shortstops answer is the most pertinent to my annoyance.

I remember some years ago hearing (on Tomorrows World I think) about the 'golden hour', that by having the right person to treat the condition at the scene as quickly as possible was a sure way to save life, as opposed to the 1950's idea of bundling you into the meat wagon & of to hospital as quickly as possible, probably killing you on the way. It seems to me we're sliding backwards... yes?

  spuds 12:05 10 May 2007

On a previous occupation, I had need to call out emergency medical help and ambulances on a number of occasions. All requests seemed to result in prompt action, except on one occasion when we had a 'jumper' who threw himself off a building. It took the ambulance twenty eight minutes to arrive, and in that time the person had already passed away. The A&E hospital was only half a mile up the road. I am not saying that the person would have lived, had the ambulance and medical aid arrived sooner, but the bystanders and myself were not very impressed about the delay incurred on that day. And that thought and scene will remain for ever, for possibly everyone concerned with that tragedy.

Going on recent (November 2006) 'call-out' request. I and another person, found a middle aged blind gentleman who was wearing a diabetic wristband in a public park, who appeared to have sustained head injuries.Requesting an ambulance, resulted in a question and answer session. Had the gentleman been mugged, and were the injuries consistent to that. Had he had a diabetic fit, or had he just fallen and hit his head on the tarmac path. Questions that I was unable to give an exact answer, I could only guess, and perhaps be wrong on all accounts. Giving directions to the call centre staff, led to further confusions, because the staff had no local knowledge of the area, even though it was explained with precise information.

Ambulances are sent on a grading system calculation, and a top grade should arrive within 8 minutes in city areas, second grade slightly longer, I believe. On the occasion mentioned above, and a time span of twenty minutes had passed, and the gentleman was going blue, even though we had tried possible life saving action. A further request was put out, and a further question and answer session commenced. The ambulance eventually arrived 10 minutes later, after the second call.

On that occasion, even though the ambulance had Emergency Paramedic displayed on the side of the vehicle, the crew were 'technicians' without the skills and authorisation to undertake highly skilled Paramedic work. This problem was recently highlighted on a television programme, as to the actual qualifications of some attending ambulance staff. Apparently, the problem is far worse in some area's of the country, than in others, even though the authorities are stating that changes are being undertaken to improve the services.

As a footnote to the (November 2006) incident. Nearby on a nearby road, and in clear view of the injured blind person, was a stationary lorry with the driver having his lunch-break. After the ambulance had attended and left the scene, I asked the driver if he had witnessed the incident taking place, and if he had made any mobile calls. Simple answer: Thought he was drunk mate, the way he was staggering. So left it at that. Now there's are real caring truck driver,I wonder what his thoughts or possibly his family thoughts would have been, if someone assumed the same, if he was involved in an similar or RTA accident!.

  dagbladet 12:07 10 May 2007

"by having the right person to treat the condition at the scene as quickly as possible was a sure way to save life, as opposed to the 1950's idea of bundling you into the meat wagon & of to hospital as quickly as possible"

Surely then, by asking you some questions, they can perhaps get the 'right person' to the scene.

  dagbladet 12:18 10 May 2007

Spuds, if you venture to my local park at any time beyond 2PM on any day you will see 2 or 3 men looking dazed and confused, from time to time one of them will fall over occassionally there is a bit of blood from a cut head. They are all drunk, every day, sad though it is it's a fact. If you approach them they'll growl at you, sometimes swinging wildly with their fists, they never hit anybody, they usually fall down, or be sick, or both. By 3-4pm they are lying flat out asleep, with or without vomit or blood around them. I see them every day and I do not go near them. One day, one of them might be seriously ill or need of help, I'll never know, I don't go near them.

  Quickbeam 12:46 10 May 2007

it's not the questions, it's the idea of someone (that may, or may not be medically trained) taking a clinical decision that seems to have the cost as the primary criteria.

In the first of the recent calls I made, nobody appeared to be in need of medical attention at first... but by the time the ambulance arrived one of the persons was severely concussed & was taken on board with a neck injury & shocked.

In yesterdays instance, I arrived at an accident some seconds after happening.. debris strewn over the road, two vehicles with all airbags deployed, people staggering about, a toddler crying in each vehicle.

Now I'm not medically trained to answer the questions asked... but it was obvious to me more than someone with a half days first aid training at work should be there!

  dagbladet 12:57 10 May 2007

Apologies, I thought it was the concept of asking the questions that was in question. Interstingly your line "debris strewn over the road, two vehicles with all airbags deployed, people staggering about, a toddler crying in each vehicle", painted a picture to me that would almost certainly warrant the despatch of an ambulance.

  oresome 13:16 10 May 2007

As always, there are two sides to the coin.

The ambulance service have a finite resource and once it's deployed, it's no longer available for the next emergency. It's right and proper that the staff ensure the resource is deployed correctly.

Those making the call are often agitated and in a state of shock themselves and have no medical knowledge or experience of seeing injured people. There first thought is to get someone on the scene who has.

The operators are skilled at calming callers down and eliciting the information they require to make a judgement as to what is required. The resource is often despatched whilst the operator continues to question the caller, althought the caller may think the questions are wasting valuable time.

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