So, yesterday I left for work an hour early… and arrived an hour early! The tube was running absolutely fine; the only thing that took longer than usual was buying my dinner because half the shops at Waterloo were closed and there were only three tills open at Marks and Spencer.

I got to work just as the “extreme over capacity plan” (which, incidentally, I think should be renamed the “getting rid of rubbish calls” plan and used every single day) was winding down. Apparently, for most of the day, anyone ringing with a non life threatening problem (that is, green and some amber calls) were told they needed to make their own way hospital, unless it was blindingly obvious that they couldn’t, in which case sector were allowed to use their common sense and send an ambulance. CTA (telephone advice) were ringing back all the calls that hadn’t been refused but hadn’t received an ambulance yet either and some of the callers were being referred to NHS Direct, GPs, etc, and some were being upgraded. At the point when I took over, there were a few calls waiting, but everyone I rang back was very understanding about the delays, and we soon cleared them off when the night crews started at 7pm. Even though we took over 5000 calls yesterday (nearly as many as New Year’s Eve), it wasn’t a lot busier than an ordinary busy evening. I was surprised that there were no serious RTAs, but perhaps people had the sense not to drive. There were a lot of people falling over in the road and breaking bones, but considerably less drunks, so it evened out.

Unfortunately at this point the rules went back to normal and there were clearly several callers who hadn’t been watching the “life threatening emergencies only” coverage on the TV because we got the following calls:

* Child fallen in snow, very minor cut on head. Crew arrived, parents wanted them to stitch wound. Crew did not think wound needed stitching and are not able to do it anyway. Crew told parents child would have to go to hospital. Family became abusive and said they didn’t want to go to hospital in this weather and that ambulance crew were useless for not being able to do it at home. Family then said they were going to follow ambulance in their car as they wanted ambulance crew to insist patient was seen immediately in A+E. Ambulance crew said patient would not be seen any quicker if they took him. Family put patient in car and drove off. Ambulance crew and North East Allocator agreed wholeheartedly that they hoped family had a long, cold wait in A+E.

* 20 year old female, suffering from period pains.

* 29 year old male, has a funny lump on his tongue.

* 16 year old male, fainted during snowball fight.

* 32 year old female, spot on back for two days.

Fortunately, none of the last three got an ambulance as CTA were able to point them in a more suitable direction (perhaps a bottle of Clearasil in the case of the last one.) The snow seems to have melted a bit now, so I expect everything will be back to normal all night.

Published Feb 03, 2009 - 14 Comments and counting

14 Comments on “Let It Snow”
  1. Stumo Says:

    Speaking as a layman, I’m surprised to see fainting in that list – it seems at least something that (a) is a fairly rare occurrence and (b) could be the sign of something worse; I thought I’d been told that anything involving unconsciousness merited further examination.

    (If your answer is parents should’ve driven him to hospital instead, then fair enough, but it seems less silly to call 999 for that one than the others)

  2. Mark Myers Says:

    Fainting in young people is a green call. It’s usually a sign of standing up too quickly or not having enough to eat!

  3. K Says:

    If it’s a one off maybe, but anyone with an unexplained faint should go to hospital, and crews would do a 12-lead. Google sudden cardiac death or check out and you’ll see what I mean.

  4. Solomon Says:

    It’s almost a pity that the drunks who fall over a lot weren’t left out in the snow. Hypothermia could have taken care of the situation.

    I’m surprised at the family that said they were going to follow the ambulance, though. Why not just take the kid in the first instance? Dumbf*cks.

  5. AmbEMD Says:

    Well thanks to LAS’s and our own Life Threatening Emergencies only Coverage… I think the vast majority of our calls were genuine.

    But one call that stuck out, was a group of people sledging at 10pm (Yes 22:00) took up multiple ambulances, a 4×4 and Helicopter! … All of which could have been avoided!

  6. Hans Gruber Says:

    What is is with the Brits? They’re nation of total wimps.

    What next? Patient blue lighted to A&E after eating blueberries and finding tongue is now a funny colour? Patient to fat to reach toenails and wants to go to A&E to have them cut? Patient’s KFC is cold and got frostbite when trying to eat it?

  7. West Says:

    Having read this page for a while, I finally feel the need to post something!

    First things first, I absolutley love reading your blog, and congratulations on getting the Allocator position (We call them controllers here in sunny West Mids lol)

    I have every sympathy for peoples children who have been injured, it’s not nice. But I hate the fact that some people just see us as an express taxi service to hospital!

    Being in WMAS, and having the pleasure of having Birmingham and Wolverhampton on our patch, it was surprising how quiet it was during the other night whilst in on overtime.. although the crews seemed to be getting stuck constantly.

  8. ci7alex1 Says:

    * 16 year old male, fainted during snowball fight.

    Ehm, for a guy who lives in snow covered winter for 7 months of the year I find this really odd. A brick disguised as a snowball, anyone? :)

    Good to hear there weren’t much of heavy trauma happening on the night.

  9. kellya84 Says:

    Fainting may indeed indicate something more serious, but without further priortity symptoms (chest pain, difficulty breathing etc) why can’t the person pop on the bus or take a taxi?

    An amb is an EMERGENCY vehicle (as in, the patient is effectively immobilised, or will die in the 19 mins), not a yellow taxi.

    I do love it when the family say they will follow in the car, expecting to get seen faster. The A&E Triage nurse will set them right :)

  10. AJ Says:

    I like the idea of transferring to that system on a permanent basis. As constantly pointed out, ambulances are *not* special taxis, they are for if you physically *can’t* make it to a hospital yourself and urgently need medical treatment.

    Your stupid calls:

    * Child fallen in snow, very minor cut on head…

    * 20 year old female, suffering from period pains.

    * 29 year old male, has a funny lump on his tongue.

    * 16 year old male, fainted during snowball fight.

    * 32 year old female, spot on back for two days.

    This is an interesting sample of “isn’t it ridiculous” stories, except, as others have been saying, possibly the fainting one.

    How exactly is “fainting” defined? Because personally, sometimes if I stand up too fast, my vision starts to grey out due to the sudden movement of blood downwards. Occasionally I have had to sit right back down again, because I physically couldn’t stand up and couldn’t see…

    However, these days if I stand up and that starts happening, I find if I just clench my stomach muscles for a few seconds that sorts the problem.

    Anyway, my point was… what counts as “fainting”? Is it more serious than that, i.e. unconscious for a couple of minutes?

  11. Dullahan_999 Says:

    @ AJ

    What you describe is postural hypotension. The blood pools in the lower extremeties (due to gravity) and when you stand up too quickly, the heart hasn’t had a chance to put in the extra effort to pump it up and oxygenate it in time.

    “Decreased levels of consciousness” is very important in the emergency world, but it covers everything from feeling faint to unresponsive to everything. Unfortunately on the phone we can’t tell if it’s due to a lack of food, standing up too quickly or severe head trauma.

    But you can make a safe bet on some of them based on age, location and the tone of the caller.

  12. Laurab Says:

    until 5 months ago i worked in an ambulance control and couldnt believe my ears one day when i triaged a call and advised they should be making their own way to hospital, only to be told by the very polite and helpful father that he had called the hospital for advice and asked if he should bring his son in to A&E, he had been told he should ring and ambulance as he would get seen quicker!! Thankfully he was a very sensible person and agreed they would happily make their own way there.

    ..and just to add to the fainting debate, to me that describes someone who has come round again and are not unconscious now. So unless other symptoms warrant a blue light he isnt about to die from fainting…

  13. Adobe voucher Says:

    thought provoking stuff

  14. Andrew Says:

    I like it when you get a call and arrive to find the patient stood at teh door with theirs bags already packed waiting for you. The old favourite chest pain that they have had for 2 weeks. Only to get to A&E and spend 30 minutes stood outside chatting to their mate over a smoke or two.

    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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