I like old people, so I have a tendency to think they are all sweet and nice and try to send ambulances to them as quickly as possible.

The other day, we had a call to a seventy-two year old female with a nosebleed. I decided to send the ECP (Emergency Care Practitioner) – a paramedic in a car who has extra training, and can deal with a lot of calls at home. The ECP will always perform a full set of checks on the patient before deciding whether to call for an ambulance or leave the patient at home and perhaps refer them to a GP, district nurse, etc.

The ECP had been at the old lady’s house no longer than a couple of minutes when he rang me.

“I’ve had to leave!” he puffed. “I thought she was going to attack me?”

“The seventy two year old with a nosebleed?!” I said, confused.

“Yes!” said the ECP. “I turned up and she was there with her bag packed – and no hint of a nosebleed except a slightly bloodied tissue. I explained that I needed to examine her properly before we were going anywhere and that she might not even need to go to hospital, and she went crazy! She told me to Foxtrot Oscar, and when I tried to explain, she came at me! So I ran away and locked myself in the car!”

I don’t know what our ECP looks like, but he sounds like a strapping young man and the thought of him running scared from a septuagenarian almost made me titter as I made sure he was okay and assured him he wouldn’t have to return to the address and we would make alternative arrangements.

I wasn’t laughing five minutes later, though. Incensed by the fact that the ECP hadn’t done as she asked, the elderly lady in question had rung back twice and sworn at two call takers and one of the Telephone Advice paramedics. Not content with this, she had also rung NHS Direct, her GP, her careline, the complaints department and her local MP to complain. All of the above, with the exception of the MP, had rung in to find out what was going on. (I do not know why people always threaten to tell their MP when they do not like something the ambulance service has done. I have seen no evidence that any MP is remotely interested.)

I had no option but to send an ambulance crew to her to take her to hospital. I warned the crew what had happened to the ECP and asked if they wanted the police or a DSO (manager) to help them.

“Nah, I think we can just about outrun a 72 year old if she gets nasty!” said one of them.

The crew also had no success in examining the patient and decided to cut their losses and ferry her to the hospital, just as she’d asked.

At the hospital, the receptionist told our charming patient that there would be a three hour wait to be seen. She promptly muttered something about complaining to Gordon Brown and stormed out.

The hospital she was taken to was right next to her local shops. If I were the cynical type I might suggest this was behind her rather odd behaviour.

Published Jun 13, 2009 - 14 Comments and counting

14 Comments on “Granny From Hell!”
  1. Paul Songer Says:

    Never get between a Granny and the shops. The true way to knw if thats what she wanted was the time? Was it 9am known worldwide as Granny shop Time? Or maybe it was pension day (that always causes riots).

    I'm guessing that you finally got home if you are blogging!

  2. Suzi Brent Says:

    Yes thanks – just! I got home at 9.30pm – I reckon I could have walked it quicker!

  3. greenandblue Says:

    9am? Round where I used to live granny shop time was between 10 and 11. You could never get on a bus between those times because they were full to the seams of grannys going shopping.
    I wonder how she got home. I'm guessing she didn't try calling another ambulance.

  4. Flora Gardens Says:

    The trick with these mis-users of the service is to tell them that their local hospital is on divert, and take them to another hospital far, far away.

    If they think that's what will happen each time they ring up for a shopping trip (or a lift to the pub near the hospital – as happened to me once) they'll soon stop it!!.

  5. Suzi Brent Says:

    Apparently there was one frequent misuser who lived just by Mayday and who'd ring up for a lift home in the middle of the night when he was drunk. One crew got so fed up that one day they just drove him to the Princess Royal (which is about 10 miles away and out and in the sticks) without telling him. He never called again!

  6. Steven Says:

    There's nothing more annoying than arriving at someone's house to find them with their bag packed and the family all sitting in the car ready to follow us up.
    Especially if it's something that doesn't really warrant a trip to A&E.
    I guess it's a throwback to the days when we were all Ambulance Drivers and nothing more – some people seem shocked when we attempt to EXAMINE them and TREAT their problem.

  7. Tinker2 Says:

    We have one of those who calls when they have no food in the house…1 day before pension day, but they have the fags and bags ready. All they want is help for actually liking hospital food!! But if we are on divert..they have an immeadiate recovery and refuse to travel.

  8. Vic Says:

    Why do people contact their MP over the most trivial matters? My neighbour alerted our MP because her front door was banging when it closed.

  9. Suzi Brent Says:

    Considering it's well documented that MPs are quite bad at getting even important things done successfully, I really don't know. I can just imagine MPs' secretaries skimming such letters and binning them immediately!

  10. Eileen Says:

    No, no, guys – you've got the wrong time of day! Here it's between 12 and 2 midday, preferably on Friday and Saturday and most obvious before a Bank Holiday. You can just see the thinking – "It's nearly lunchtime, what can I do – I know, let's go and annoy as many people as we can who are in a hurry …" I swear, when we retire (as in not working 9-5 and very early, but very soon) the last place I'm going is a shop at lunchtime, especially ones that sell food that is suitable for lunch!!!!!

  11. Dullahan999 Says:

    People love the MP threaten and the only time I've seen one take interest is when the elections were due and they were a fresh candidate. Call me cynical but the stern letter to the local paper may have been more about votes than someone's personal issue.

  12. Jamie Says:

    So this is the way to respond to abusive punters? Capitulate and drive them to their local A&E – make it their problem. (and spend umpty hundred pounds in the process)


  13. andy@pmiuk Says:

    Unbeliveable, not only do you have to deal with unruly youngsters – but now the elderly are in on the act as well! I really don't know how you guys deal with a ll this stuff on a day to day basis – it would send me loopy. I dof my cap to you all!

  14. Liam Sizer Says:

    Missed this one somehow earlier! Some years ago after getting called to the same old feller "collapsed" at work, at the same time on Friday lunchtime I started getting very suspicious. On arrival we'd find him on the floor feigning unconciuosness but he would not respond in any way, even stimulus of a fairly painful kind gained no response. I checked his notes at A&E and found that he had been taken in on no less than seven occasions in four months, all around 1300 on Friday. He lived within five minutes walk of the hospital and had discharged himself as soon as the crew left. RIGHT I thought, wait 'til next time which duly arrived two weeks later. On arrival I said "We'll have to take him to Winchester today. The old boy murmered "No, I go to Southampton", Whereupon I told his manager what had been going on. A friend drove him to work in the morning so he wasn't leaving a car and he was getting a long week-end off. We never got him again!!!!!!

    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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