This week, the North East Desk acquired a bunch of FRUs (Fast Response Unit, ambulance car, solo, etc). There have always been FRUs in the North East, of course, but previously they were run by their own desk and while we could see what they were doing, we didn’t have any control over them. So far, I’ve much preferred having them on the desk – it’s more work but makes things easier in the long run.

However, our first weekend with the FRUs on the desk was marred by a horrible incident. We got a call to a “man lying in the road”. As I’ve mentioned before, 99% of these calls turn out to be someone drunk, or a homeless person sleeping. The member of the public who calls in doesn’t want to get too close and put themselves in danger, so they let a paramedic or police officer put themselves in danger instead. Because of course, emergency responders are made of steel and can’t get hurt. Because most of these patients are harmless, we usually leave it up to the crews to decide whether they want police assistance. On this occasion, they were happy to go and assess the patient without police.

A FRU EMT who I will refer to as Fred was first on the scene. He spotted the patient straight away, opened the door of his car and took his equipment over to him. Fred knew the patient wasn’t dead when he got to his feet and raised his fist. He didn’t even have time to reach for his phone to ring for help before he fell to the ground. The “patient” didn’t stop then, he carried on kicking and punching Fred while he was on the ground. Fred felt everything go black…

Minutes later, Jim and Bob arrived on scene in their ambulance. They saw the man lying on the ground too, and Fred’s car, but there was no sign of Fred. Then Jim looked a little closer and saw that the man lying on the ground WAS Fred, barely conscious and covered with blood. Bob jumped on to the radio and pressed his priority button to alert us.

“This is K606. We need urgent police! NE66 has been seriously assaulted, we’ve just found him lying in the road, covered in blood. My crewmate is assessing him now and I’ll get back to you on the radio.”

Horrified, we called the police and got another crew and a manager down to the scene straight away. We all felt a bit guilty – from the safety of the control room, we’d sent poor Fred in to this call and let him get assaulted. Perhaps we should have called the police or only sent a two-man ambulance? But that’s easy to say with hindsight – you simply don’t know which calls are going to turn out to be dangerous, and hundreds of calls like this one pass without event every single day. Our guilt then turned to anger – what kind of revolting low down scrote punches and kicks a paramedic as he tries to help them? What a disgusting, repugnant excuse for a human being. I hope he gets run over by a runaway ambulance and gets taken to NEWHAM GENERAL with TWO BROKEN LEGS. People like that make me sick.

It was also the worst assault I have ever seen on an ambulance crew and I wondered to myself if it was worse because Fred was on his own – would the “patient” have dared attack TWO paramedics in the same way? Are solo responders really a good idea, especially at night in “dodgy” areas? You don’t see police officers going around on their own, do you? The principle of FRUs often gets a lot of stick because they are seen as a way of meeting response time targets rather than delivering the best patient care and this incident has certainly done nothing to persuade me that we should have more of them.

Jim and Bob blued Fred into the local hospital because of his head injury and possible loss of consciousness, but we were later told that there was no serious injury and that he was being allowed home today. This was a great relief to all of us, and if you know Fred, please wish him get well soon from everyone on the North East desk!

Published Dec 07, 2008 - 42 Comments and counting

42 Comments on “FRU Assaulted”
  1. Chris Rigby Says:

    People like that should be named, shamed, and refused all future medical assistance.

    Best wishes to Fred

  2. eric Says:

    Thats just sick. To attack some one who has arrived with the express purpose of helping is the lowest of the low.

    I have (thank God, touch wood) never been attacked in work (I’m a student nurse), or on duty with the Johns (even at concerts, where half a dozen blokes see our female staff as easy cop-a-feel chances). But there have been some close calls, and I’m always happy when event or hospital security arrive. An every time I have a close call, I realise and reflect on how risky my job and hobby can be.

    This kind of story just highlights how ungrateful some members of the public are. Most of the time I can live with not getting thank yous or the way some venues (when working with the Johns) treat us, or how our hospital is so stretched that we feel guilty calling in sick!
    Usually this ungratefullness manifests in hoax calls and fakers, but people who attack ambulance staff have absolutly no respect. And they would be the first to call an ambulance and DEMAND one if they got hurt.

    From what I gather from reading London based blogs, any body above EMT drives FRUs. And if this is only to meet crazy deadlines in a stretched service then they have to review the usefullness and risk of having FRUs. Here in Ireland the only solos are Advanced Paramedics and Delta Alphas (I’m not sure if thats what we call them here).

    hope Fred is ok.
    as Chris Rigby says: name shame and refuse future medical help.

  3. Jon Delaunt Says:

    I feel for Fred, and his colleagues who turned up on scene – the lot of them should be commended. Mentioned in Dispatches! Best wishes to him and all of the guys on my patch.

    On a lighter note, I hope the scrote ends up in Newham Gen too. I hate that place with a passion! :-)


  4. caramaena Says:

    What a low life. I hope Fred recovers quickly.

  5. tido Says:

    I discovered your blog recently and it has been a real eye opener.I was actually quite shocked reading this to learn that your paramedics can get sent out on their own. I never imagined that this would be considered a reasonable thing to do.

  6. Greg Says:

    I really hope Fred is okay, but I am confused by your second paragraph.

    Are you saying that members of the public should put themselves in danger (and as your post points out there is a definite danger), or that they should not bother to call the emergency services if they see someone that they are worried about the condition of?

  7. Mark Myers Says:

    It’s a difficult one, but I think that people should be aware that ambulance crews are just as likely to get hurt as they are, and that they should make at least some attempt to investigate whether the person needs medical help and whether the situation is safe before they pick up the phone.

  8. Erin Says:

    I hate do-gooder calls, especially when they’re pretty sure the patient isn’t conscious and breathing but don’t want to go and check because they’re either a teenager or of an ethnic minority that you just can’t trust you know. It’s as if dialing 999 removes them of all responsibility. Also the assumption that all crews are big burly blokes and won’t mind getting a few knocks, and should be able to just sit on the violent patient that the caller cannot handle and force them into the ambulance.

    I’ve had a crew assaulted on one of my calls and I still feel guilty about it. Even though heaps of people have listened to it and have all come to the same conclusion, that none of them would have called police. They closed the lid on that case pretty tight so I never even found out who it was or if they were okay, or what happened. I know he’s fine, I got that much, but part of me still wants to apologise for not somehow sensing that it was wasn’t right.

  9. Zac Smith Says:

    It’s all very well saying “The member of the public who calls in doesn’t want to get too close and put themselves in danger, so they let a paramedic or police officer put themselves in danger instead.” but what is a member of public meant to do? When I see a pissed bloke slumped in a doorway, do I:

    a. Ignore him and let him freeze to death
    b. Wake him up and get a faceful of abuse/knuckles.
    c. Pass the problem to someone who, knows what they are doing, has a radio and colleagues to back them up and is getting paid to do exactly that.

    Tricky one.

  10. Matt Dinnery Says:

    You follow the “alternate” ABC:
    Assess (find out if anything is wrong, and what it is)
    Breathe (take a deep breath and collect your thoughts)
    Call (999, 0300 non-emergency, 08 45 46 47, whatever)

    It’s funny, but even in the standard primary survey (or incident management plan, if you’re so trained) teaches to check for danger, do a bit of work, and then call it in:
    *shout for help
    call for help (comms/999)

    ASSESS (1,2,3-step, then SAD CHALETS)
    MAKE SAFE (following 1,2,3-guidance, or local)
    EMERGENCY AID (give some basic, like DRAB)
    GET HELP (comms/999)

  11. Kristy Says:

    I also don’t think you should criticise too strongly members of the public who call the emergency services when they see someone they think needs help. I imagine ambulance crews must be trained in dealing with difficult patients; they also have gloves and glasses and so on to protect themselves if there’s a danger of infection. They have the option of being accompanied by the police who are obviously the best people to deal with any violence and have protective clothing, authority, the power to arrest etc. Ordinary members of the public have none of the training or equipment necessary to deal with these situations.

    At least give them credit for trying to help someone they think is in trouble rather than just walking by like the rest of the population. We can’t all be heroes but at least some people care enough to do SOMETHING.

  12. bolton Says:

    why are drunks classed as any kind of medical priority anyway?… farce that the police can fine someone for being drunk yet the moment the person looks like he’s going to becoma d and i it’s suddenly a medical issue. they should be left to stew in their own mess

  13. matheson Says:

    I agree with the comments re: the general public. Unlike the passer-by, the ambulance staff have the option of taking the police along with them, as well as being trained and equipped to deal with such situations. I understand a certain amount of professional cynicism but it does seem to me that your irritation is aimed at the wrong person — how about the drunks who put us all in this situation to start with?

    I wish Fred hadn’t been sent on his own to a situation like that, but I wouldn’t willingly substitute him for a passer-by, either.

  14. Greg Says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t alone in being slightly confused by the message in the post. I’ve always imagined that the emergency services will have the training and resources to deal with such situations.

    Like I said earlier, I really really hope that Fred is okay, but consider the situation where instead of phoning in the member of the public had intervened themselves. I guess the main difference would be that Jim and Bob wouldn’t have turned up a few minutes later, but instead the member of the public would instead be waiting for someone else to phone the emergency services. It’s exactly because of incidents like the one in this post that I’d rather not intervene myself in these situations.

  15. Mark Myers Says:

    I should clarify, I’m not criticising the public for calling the ambulances per se (as one of you remarked, it’s better than just ignoring a potentially ill person), just the flippant way it’s done and the perceptiom that ambulance crews can’t be hurt.

  16. Michelle D'israeli Says:

    To be honest, I don’t see how this is any different to how one should deal with any incident or emergency. I’ve worked on helpdesks, and so have experience with incident management, but there is nothing special to it.

    If there is immediate danger, or absolutely nothing that the person discovering (or taking the call regarding) the fault can do, then leaving is fine. But were possible, surely there is a moral and civil responsibility to stay and do what you can until you can properly pass the call over once the trained professional help arrives?

    Perhaps this is more what Mark is complaining about, rather than the calls themselves. I get the impression people have a habit of phoning up from their car as they drive past…

  17. Persphone Says:

    I hope Fred gets well soon and I really hope, he can return to his job without being afraid of that one call “man in the road” soon, too.

    I also totally agree with no.1.

    PS: For some non-London-person: what is so bad about Newham GeneraL?

  18. JMe Says:

    Whats so bad about stopping and waiting for the medical attention to get there. You can then phone the police if there is a problem rather than wait for another crew, which could be more than 20 minutes if there is already an FRU on scene.
    Fred is lucky that the Ambulance turned up within a reasonable time. Maybe this is would be on of those times the response times actually made a diffrence. Admittadly Fred wouldn’t be in that position if they wern’t introduced.

  19. Dan Says:

    The attacker in this situation may indeed have just been some sort of galactic-level scumbag, but since no mention is made of him _robbing_ Fred, I think it’s likely that the attacker was mentally ill.

    There’s no point wishing eternal misery on someone who thinks he just barely escaped being eaten by a Satanic zombie vampire controlled by the CIA. It’s perfectly possible to be mentally ill AND a horrible person, of course, but to the extent that you can’t accurately perceive or think about the world, you’re off the hook for what you do, no matter how awful it looks to less crazy people.

    Tip ‘o the hat to the Care In The Community politicians; they’re the ones who pushed out the mental-hospital door anybody who looked likely to be able to wipe his own arse one time out of three.

  20. Erin Says:

    What I find frustrating are the calls where we show up and the patient has stood up and disappeared. If that caller had just stopped their car and watched, we would know and not waste any ones time.

    But more so, the ones where they tell you a boy has been lying on the path for an hour in the cold–they think he’s dead, they haven’t seen him move, they’ve thrown something at him and think he’s dead. It’s a weekday night, there is ice on the roads and there are 5+ people looking at this kid they think is dead.

    “Go and check to see if he’s conscious and breathing,” I ask, and get the, “Oh he’s definitely not.”

    So I swing into CPR mode, and get informed that this dead patient is going to overpower 5 adults because he’s ethnic. And then I get told by the caller that I have asked her too many silly questions and I shouldn’t be asking them and why hasn’t the ambulance shown up in 1min 30. I got the impression it was unsightly for her to have a dead ethnic teenager in front of her pub

    That sums up a do-gooder call for me.

  21. chris Says:

    Hi, i work on the ambulances and the general public are right to think that we are trained to deal with such situations; however, they would be wrong. I only received 3 hours of power point telling me how its all the medics thought for getting assaulted and how to report the attack. Not once were we told how to deal with the attacker. Furthermore me and my partner have had to go to the aid of a patient suspected to have been stabbed down a dark alleyway and the only protection we had were those gloves that were previously mentioned by someone :) could not get hold of control for help. Not controls thought bad radios on the buses.
    All the best Fred, keep your chin up mate, you are appreciated.

  22. Bob Says:

    “You don’t see police officers going around on their own, do you?”

    Umm, yes you do, at least you do where I work. 4 bobbies covering a population of 40,000 people. I can’t remember the last time I was double crewed.

  23. Eddie Says:

    Spare a thought for Community Responders (volunteer members of the public) who also ride solo into these situations with no training/awareness.

    Dispatchers should never feel bad about this – you simply never know what the incident holds until you arrive.

    Get well soon Fred !

  24. Fat lazy male nurse Says:

    Persphone asks about Newham General. When I worked In A&E there in the early 90s it was known as ‘Nam. I’ve done agency work there there since and it hasn’t changed much. The clientele and the facilities, along with some outstandingly incompetent staff mean your best bet is to ask the ambo crew to bypass and take you to Whipps or the Hom!

  25. Andrew Says:

    I suspect that most people who dial 999 and leave it to somneone else to deal with expect that in a remotely dodgy situation the Police will turn up or at the very least an ambulence with 2 people on board and quick access to police back-up if they think they need it. It is unforunate that due to lack of resources this is frequently not the case. It is also unforunate that the general public are not aware that this is the case, or maybe there may be a bit more political will to do something about it.

  26. Sarahnova Says:

    I think Fred might have made it into the London Lite…

  27. Damien Says:

    Saw him on the local regional London news last night, either BBC or ITV, I forget..

  28. wunami Says:

    That’s pretty horrible.

    I’m an alum, but I still work frequently for my old student-run and student-staffed college EMS. The campus police often will hear our dispatch and show up on scene (especially if the dispatch is for something that could be shady). In general, we kind of think of it as a nuisance. But I know in reality, they do it to look out for us…since we’re students that they are supposed to be protecting. We haven’t had any on the job assaults but it’s good to know the police will be there.

  29. Kevin Says:

    I know that Paramedics and Police etc are not made of steel, however we all know the dangers of the job before we take on our roles. I don’t think we should be saying things like “we are made of steel” I know that the aggresion and violence is totally unnecessary as we are there to help. But also why should the public put themselves in danger when the police are there etc.

  30. Kevin Says:

    Having said what I said in my comment. I do agree that to assault someone who is there to PURELY HELP someone is disgusting, and people who do that seriously have something wrong. Why hit someone who is there to POTENTIALLY SAVE THERE THAT PERSONS LIFE? It is out of order.
    The point I was trying to make was that the public who do not go over to the patient for fear of danger – Shouldn’t have to.
    Sorry for any confusion

  31. Anthony Says:

    This is from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service website:

    Paramedic and Police Scheme
    We now have four RRVs staffed by a paramedic and a police officer. They work late-night weekend and bank holiday shifts and attend incidents such as drunkenness or domestic violence, where both services are needed. These vehicles currently operate in York and Hull.

  32. sally Says:

    I am shocked and appalled by 2 things in the entry.

    1. that someone would treat a paramedic so terribly and violently.

    2. your implication that the public should endanger themselves before reporting the crime. I am sorry… get a grip. Paramedics are trained professionals. When the decide to train as paramedics they ar fully aware that they will be put in dangerous positions.

    I find it higly unlikely that a dispatcher for the police would recommened that i went into check a broken in to house for danger before i got the police sent out. Or that a fireman would ask me to put out the dangerous bits od a fire the best i could before they arrived.

    If you are going to train into a profession then learn about what is expected of you before doing so… be that long hours… or dangerous situations. If the later applies then ensure you have full and adequate training before you begin your work.

    I am a young women… and as such would not approach a ‘man on the road’ … surely endangering myself is not the best solution here.

  33. Mark Myers Says:

    I did *not* say that the public should endanger themselves. I said they should take whatever steps they can to assess the situation and decide whether a) the emergency services are needed b) whether the situation is safe. Just simply having a look from a distance or asking others “do you know what happened?” before making that call can make all the difference. It’s also not so much the fact that people call – what else can they do? – but the blase attitude that comes across when they make the call. The “no, he’s 500 metres away, I haven’t even bothered to stop my car to look closer, but you can send an ambulance crew as they obviously have nothing better to do” type attitude.

  34. sally Says:

    I under stand that people calling from 500 meters away who havent even stopped their cars are an annoyence … atleast they call… some people would not want to get involved.

    The two quotes that led me to feel that you thought the public should endanger themselves before a trained professional are.

    1. ‘The member of the public who calls in doesn’t want to get too close and put themselves in danger, so they let a paramedic or police officer put themselves in danger instead’

    To properly asses if the situation is dangerous… you have to put your self in danger. Which the above quote indicates you feel is the correct course of conduct before … we endanger you.. trained, skilled and equipped collegues. I am sure they would be thrilled at the suggestion.

    ‘Whatever steps they can… B)asses if the situation is dangerous.’ echos this sentiment. You are right there are probably countless wasted hours dealing with unessecery call outs. As a ‘Joe Blogg’ however i would much prefer a medical professional to asses wether medical attention is need for the drunk homeless guy than me. I wouldnt have a clue… and i personally believe he had a right to medical attention and care aswell. Yes the call are a nusiance when unessecery. But sometimes they are.

    Perhaps the driver in the car 500 meters away has a toddler in a car seat and cant properly assess the situation.

  35. Mark Myers Says:

    My opinion is that first aid, looking out for fellow human beings, etc, isn’t just the responsibility of those who are paid to do it. When you come across a situation, you should think “What’s going on here? Is it dangerous? Can I safely approach this guy and find out what’s happened to him and what help he needs?” Perhaps the answer is “No, I can’t, I have a toddler in my car seat and I’ve got to look after him” (perhaps in that case, slowly driving past, or asking another passer by to help might be possible?) I am not having a go at people who genuinely can’t do any more. The people who I am having a go at (and to be fair, you probably don’t realise how bad they are and how frequent they are, not having done my job!) are those who just simply can’t be bothered to have a better look or don’t think it’s their problem. This sort of thing…

    I don’t know whether the person who made this call was one of the bad ones and my comment was, I suppose, a bit of a knee jerk reaction along the lines of “I knew one day one of those stupid calls would end up like this, why couldn’t it have been one of those annoying, flippant callers who ended up getting bashed instead of lovely Fred the FRU?” Of course I’d rather no one got hurt, and that’s not really a fair thing for me to say, but it was how I felt at the time. Don’t forget that emergency services workers are people too, with real feelings, real injuries and real families at home. However well they are trained, they can still get hurt.

  36. ishq Says:

    I agree with Mark.
    Some time ago I received a 999 call, from a female following an elderley gent at a distance of approx 6ft, both walking along. She was callng for an ambulance, because this elderly gent was walking with a limp, after much persuation, I manged to get her to approach the gentleman and ask weather he needed an ambulance. As it turned out, he broke his leg many years ago and he had the limp ever since!!!!

    common sense – what is that???

  37. jaffa Says:

    Just wanted to say – while Im all for writing how you feel etc, I think it’s a bit harsh to name hospitals like you have in this post. It might be wiser to adopt the approach that Tom Reynolds applies to his blogs – that of anonymity. I work at ‘Nam’. While I appreciate the bad press it has ( justified or not ), there are some amazing staff there who work their backsides off to try and change the old impression and reupation it has. Naming it in such a negative light doesnt help this objective, and frankly, makes me ( and probably some others that work there ) feel a bit crap. It probably wont help instill confidence in anyone that ever has to go there on the other side of the fence either. All hospitals have bad sides, not just NUHT.

  38. Discount Code Says:

    you never know what youre going to get, thats true

  39. code Says:

    I think I Know this hospital…

  40. alex Says:

    "your implication that the public should endanger themselves before reporting the crime"

    Ah, but it's not a *crime* they're reporting, is it? It's not even close.

    This is someone who's standing across the road, calling 999 because someone is dead. Or perhaps just asleep. Or maybe unconscious. Or maybe looking at the stars. In fact, really, they're just calling 999 because someone is lying down in a public place.

    Should you dial 999 for that? (And then walk off because, hey, that's your good deed for that day done. Never mind the fact that your sleeping drunk will wake up and walk off as well – leaving the ambulance crew hopelessly searching the area.)

    Or should you walk over and ask them if they're ok? If you can't do that, you could wait for the ambulance to arrive, so you could show the ambulance crew exactly where the 'casualty' is.

  41. Ben M Says:

    "The member of the public who calls in doesn’t want to get too close and put themselves in danger, so they let a paramedic or police officer put themselves in danger instead."__Reading this I understand what you are trying to get across and what you mean.__Mark – I would do what you have written – about seeing whether or not it is safe to approach do they need help etc but I would do this only because I am in St. John Ambulance Cadets (Yes I'm 15). And as you have a background of being trained like all paramedics, First Aiders, police officers etc. But the general public who doesnt have a clue what to expect, do, whatever and has proberly never witnessed anything like this before. they wouldnt know what to do and just calling an ambulance will still get help to the patient (insecure, could hearted, low life – in this case)

  42. Ben M Says:

    Why did Fred approach once he got to the scene? because he didnt think that it was a dangerous situation, neither did the public most likely, no doubt he has been in situations like this before aswell as other paramedics and also he has been trained. But this is London in the 21st centuary. You never no what tio expect where crime is concerned.

    Fred I hope you are well and have fully recovered and I think it is disgraceful what the some people do when they try and help, I've been grabbed and had abuse shouted at me before whilst on duty in St. John Ambulance, its just pathetic, they don't know any better, sometimes I think that they should be refused treatment but again at the end of the day they are still a pateint and we are just doing our jobs, its what people sign up for. well not to get abused but to help people.
    Sadly sometimes it's not allways what is expected and Im sorry to hear what happened. hope you are well.


    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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