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.