I’ve completed two weeks as an Allocator on the East Central! I’ve also managed not to fall out with any crews or colleagues or cause a significant drop in those all-important performance figures. I haven’t yet worked out which ambulance belongs to Mr Reynolds but I’m working on it. So I can tentatively consider myself a success in my new role. So far.

The hardest part so far is getting used to regularly working on a different sector. I was on the North East for three years and only worked other sectors on overtime or relief shifts, allocating with the help of someone who usually works that desk. I knew all the crews’ shift times off by heart and all the little idiosyncrasies of the sector, like the way Tottenham crews gravitate to Edmonton ambulance station and Whipps Cross 29 starts and finishes at Walthamstow for no apparent reason. I got to recognise some of the crews by voice (“Bonjour Romford” brightened many a shift – we took to sending messages down his MDT in French) and became quite fond of the regular callers – Jimmy the surprisingly nice throat slitting alcoholic, George Michaels the fit-prone alcoholic who frequently offers to marry me, Mrs Haddock who wants us to change the TV channel and make her a cup of tea… I miss them all, and when I see someone else sitting with my former deskmates in “my” chair it’s a bit like seeing your ex boyfriend out with a new girlfriend.

But the East Central is great, and I’m learning my way around it. The first thing I had to get my head around is the fact that all the ambulance stations are very close together, and while 5 miles is a perfectly acceptable distance to send a Romford (London/Essex borders) crew, you’ll be pushing it to send a Smithfield (central London, in the City/financial district) more than two. The roads are narrow and there is so much traffic that two miles can take 10 minutes, even on blue lights.

The other shock has been the contrast between night and day. During the day, the East Central is one of the busiest sectors. At night, it practically shuts down. This is because a large part of the sector is taken up with the City and Docklands, areas where a lot of people work, but not many people live. Those who do live in the East Central are mainly young, well off people, who are less likely to get ill in the first place and more likely to take taxis to hospital. The exception to this is the Newham/West Ham area, which generates a steady stream of pointless green calls throughout the night. By 2am, it is perfectly possible to run the entire sector with five ambulances, three of which are based at Newham. Of course, when you have a small number of ambulances and a small number of calls, it only takes one large incident – a car accident with multiple patients, for example – to throw the whole thing out of kilter and the only way to deal with this is to steal ambulances from the North East and the South East. I have become a master at eyelash fluttering and bargaining with other allocators. For example: “I have a really nice little old lady on the floor. She’s been waiting AAAGES! Can I have your Bloomsbury? If you give me your Bloomsbury, you can have my 6am Smithfield!”

I’m getting to know the crews too: the friendly green truck who really will go anywhere and do anything, the world’s most cheerful DSO (manager) and Barney, so called because he likes to have one. And where would we be without the regulars? There’s Harriet, who calls with chest pain but really wants us to tuck her into bed, Derek, the self harmer who wants us to call his mum, Adrian, the nasty lunatic just out of prison who “knows where we live” (we know where he lives too) and currently Horace Halfpenny is hanging around our sector and giving all the crews earache. His 50% burns are all but forgotten.

Another advantage of the East Central desk is that you have a really clear view of the control room TV, so I get to watch Takeshi’s Castle and World’s Most Amazing Videos every night.

Published Mar 06, 2009 - 18 Comments and counting

18 Comments on “My New Sector”
  1. Chapati Says:

    Glad you’re enjoying!

    Have fun :D

  2. Rob Says:

    I work at the police despatch centre, and there is NOTHING better than being a late lunch and watching both episodes of Takeshi’s castle!!!

  3. Happy Medic Says:

    Glad to hear you are adjusting to the new digs. Congrats again on the new spot.


  4. mrleg Says:

    takeshi’s castle? nah, it has to be ninja warrior!

  5. AlisonW Says:

    I had to call a big yellow taxi two weeks ago (turned out to be a broken ankle) and ended up ‘discussing strongly’ with ambulance control where the access to where I was really was. I was in the ICA – public entrance on The Mall – yet Control only had the ‘office entrance’ in a different road and easily accessible. Took quite a while to get them come to the main entrance! Who should I be telling to get their information right?

  6. cogidubnus Says:

    Well done mate!

  7. Suzi Brent Says:

    Alison, sounds like a problem with the new gazetteer. It can be great but occasionally it just insists that a location doesn’t exist. I’m not sure who makes the gazetteer but the patient experiences department (patientexperiences@lond-amb.nhs.uk) should be able to pass your feedback on to them.

    If it happens again, the easiest thing might be to send someone to meet the ambulance at the office entrance and direct them to where you are.

  8. Tom Reynolds Says:

    Barney is called Barney because he looks like Barney Rubble from the Flintstones.

    Although – you might well be right about the other reason for his nickname…

  9. petoskystone Says:

    pleased you’ve settled in nicely!

  10. Reversecookie Says:

    I was told that Barney is so called because he is a dinosaur in the job and because he’s the spitting image of Barney Rubble or was it Barney the dinosaur…

    I worked in the East End for 4 years. You’ll love it.

  11. Police Despatcher Says:

    Change can be difficult! I spent my first shift today on the one division in my force which (a) is huger than the others, (b) operates in a totally different way, (c) I live in and (d) has the best view of the TV. All good fun and now I feel rather bemused!

  12. Matt Dinnery Says:

    If you were on last night, Mr Reynolds was one of the crews you’ll have sent to the 7-year-old female whose life needed saving (http://twitter.com/Reynolds/status/1303345122)…

  13. Suzi Brent Says:

    Matt, I wasn’t on that night so my search for Mr Reynolds’ ambulance goes on! It was nice to read what he’d done nonetheless.

  14. Suzi Brent Says:

    BTW, I think my deskmates must have been having me on about the reason for Barney’s nickname. Bah!

  15. K1 Massive Says:

    Barney is called Barney cos he looks like Barney Rubble.

  16. Crowlord Says:

    Bah we have plenty of TVs in mine but they only show CCTV images. Oh for some Takeshi’s castle.

  17. Adobe Coupon Says:

    is that show still on?

  18. Polprav Says:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

    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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