(This post will probably be boring if you do not work for the LAS, so please scroll past if you like!)
The East Central desk are seriously persona non grata with the East Central Ambulance Crews at the moment. No one wants to bring us Percy Pigs, in fact we barely get a grunt from some of the crews when they answer the phone. We are The Enemy, a bunch of saddos whose purpose in life is to make crews’ lives difficult. What have we done? Well, basically, we’ve been checking up on their every move. For instance, if a crew is at hospital for longer than 30 minutes, they get a message telling them asking them exactly what the delay is. If they are trying to avoid their rest break (to get their £10 missed break payment or an early finish), we have to report them to their managers. Not only are we watching the crews’ every move, our managers our watching us, so if we miss something, it’s not just the crew concerned who get in trouble – we get in trouble for letting them. So I’m there banging out the messages: “Report delays!” “Return for rest break!” “Go out on Active Area Cover!” I occasionally give out the odd emergency call, too…
The trouble is that contrary to popular belief, ambulance crews are adults. They don’t like being told when to take their lunch and they don’t like being told they can’t hang around the hospital for a five minute cuppa after they’ve booked their patient in. The more we treat them like children, the more they act like them. They twiddle their statuses, drive round in circles and backchat to us on the radio. In turn, we get irritated with them and think “well, if they’re going to be like THAT they are DEFINITELY getting their rest break. And then I will send them to Horace Halfpenny! Hahaha.” But crews don’t play up if we just let them get on with their job without all those annoying messages. Well, some of them do, but the bad apples stick out like sore thumbs, and I have no hesitance in reporting a crew who are genuinely slacking off. The rest of them are just playing up because they feel their professionalism is being called into question, and I can see their point.
The sad thing is that there’s a real sense of “us” and “them” at the moment and it’s counterproductive, because we need to work together. I need the crews on side when I want them to do me a favour (work late to cover a call I that I really don’t want to keep waiting, for example). The more we annoy the crews, the more they annoy us, the less gets done and the worse service we provide to patients.
I propose that to solve this problem, we abolish all the current LAS targets and bring in a new rest break system where all crews get a break that they actually want. Who cares whether we meet all Cat A calls in 8 minutes when it is proven that most of the time they are not even life threatening? Who cares if all your crews get a break if they all claim “dirty uniform” and go home early anyway? Can’t we count the number of lives saved and the number of patients satisfied with the service we provide? Making a real difference to patients is an achievement, meeting an arbitrary target is not.