The other day I was very kindly invited to join one of our local FRUs (ambulance car) for a day shift. I was, of course, fishing for juicy stories for the book, but sod’s law decided to strike and predictably nothing of the sort happened. Still, we had a busy day and I learned a lot about FRUs and what they are useful for, which will be very useful for allocating – for the last few weeks, the sector allocators (ie. me) have been responsible for allocating FRUs. Previously, they had their own desk and allocators and I don’t mind admitting that my use of them has been a trifle hit and miss.

We started the day with three little old ladies and two little old men who had some combination of chest pain, difficulty breathing and confusion. Only one of these turned out to be seriously ill – a lady in her sixties with a suspected stroke. She was practically unconscious (she resisted when we tried to open her eyes, but that was it), breathing very oddly and doing something very peculiar with her tongue. When the crew arrived, they took one look at her and said “Okay, let’s go”. I think they thought she was about to go into cardiac arrest. She didn’t though – they blued her into the hospital and we later found she had gone for a brain scan and been transferred to a ward.

While we were on this call the other FRU from our station got sent on a working suspended (ie. a cardiac arrest that they try to resuscitate). Typical!

Next followed the ubiquitous sunny day call – “Male collapsed in road, ? intoxicated”. We went to the location given, and like on many of these calls, there was no sign of the caller and no sign of the patient either. We were about to give up and go when suddenly we spotted a pair of feet sticking up over a low wall. On closer inspection, the feet belong to a youngish male who was asleep in the bush behind the wall.

“Wake up, wake up!” said Samantha, the FRU technician I was with. “What are you doing in the bush?”

The man woke up, looked disorientatedly around and then muttered. “I drunk. I sleeping. Please leave me.”

“You can’t sleep here!” Samantha told him. “If you won’t move we’ll have to call the police. People think you are dead.”

The man tutted and reluctantly accepted our assistance to get him sitting up on the wall. Shortly afterwards, his friend came to remove him. We cancelled the ambulance.

Then it was on to a 30something woman with backache which had come down as a “severe difficulty in breathing”. I suspected this call was not quite the life threatening emergency that it was cracked up to be and I was right. This was proved by the fact that a) the patient kept saying “I know I ain’t dying or nothing, but…” and “I’m not having difficulty breathing” b) the way her “concerned” relatives were sitting on the sofa opposite with a copy of “Love It” discussing Jade Goody’s funeral.

The day ended inauspiciously with a 30 year old female who quite clearly had a urinary tract infection and looked so healthy when she answered the door that Samantha asked her where the patient was. On the plus side, she had a cute cat.

While the calls could have been better, it was still a great day as it was nice to meet the crews and have a chat with them about how we do things in control and how we could do things better. There were the inevitable questions about boring old rest breaks but no one said “Ugh, you’re from Control, we hate you, go away” or anything like that. Also other highlights of the day included hearing all about the regular calls from those who have met them first hand and driving by the places where they live. It really brought those voices down the end of the phone to life!

Thank you to everyone at the ambulance station and especially to Samantha for having me!

Published Apr 23, 2009 - 8 Comments and counting

8 Comments on “Ride Out on a FRU”
  1. Blunt Bloke Says:

    It must be nice to get out on the front line every now and then and see what the crews get up to and to see what there potential clients are like.

    Is it just me or does it seem to happen to most people, you go out on a days training and you want the worst to happen, but then you get a relatively quite day, as a live learner (our jobs title for a Station Supervisor willing to show trainee SS's what we have to do at work) I always hope for a bad day at work otherwise it can be 8 hours of boredom.

  2. ben Says:

    I'm an FRU paramedic, and a few months back had an observer out with me for 8 of my 12 hour shift. We did one job in the whole 8 hours. I dropped her off. In the last 4 hours of my shift I then had 7 calls including a "working" cardiac arrest, and several other bits and pieces. It's the observers' curse…

  3. PvtWooly Says:

    I went out observing with a RRU in London for 2 days, both day had workable cardiac arrests, and about 5 or 6 other jobs each day aswell(i've now been Given an LAS ASBO- And am now banned lol!!! Completely swings on roundabouts as I've done many 12hr shifts with my own service and gone from standby to standby. Was thoroughly enjoying two days.

  4. las_emd Says:

    Had an obs shift with an FRU recently, had a witnessed cardiac arrest, didn't think that ever happened when observers were about!!

  5. MarkUK Says:

    "but sod’s law decided to strike and predictably nothing of the sort happened"

    Called "The Curse of the Observer" chuck. Even New Year's Eve couldn't mess with that last time I went out. As a CFR, I'm not allowed trauma; as a first aider, I get little else. I see front-line crews in action at medical emergencies on a regular basis (as I'm working with them) but I never get to see trauma.

    Incidentally, many thanks to the crews/solo paramedics at Willow Row in Derby who have hosted me as an observer a few times.

  6. Emily. Says:


    I just read your entire blog in one afternoon – it was a brilliant read! Can't wait for your book to come out!

    (Sorry this is on such a random post, but it is the most recent.)

  7. pj[padding] Says:

    >asleep in the bush behind the call.
    Should be "behind the wall.

  8. Police Despatcher Says:

    Glad you had a good time.

    I love going out on attachment with the officers and it is also damn useful experience – I can be much more effective when I know what life is like for them out on the ground.

    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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