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!