I’m on nights this week and it has been CRAZILY busy. Usually, the East Central is dead by 2am on a week night. This week, I’ve still been juggling a screen full of calls at 5am.

So what do you think is responsible for the increase in call rate? Drunken people enjoying the good weather? Swine flu? No, it’s the pollen count. Our screens are full of young people having “severe difficulty in breathing”, brought on by hayfever. It’s the first time I can remember this happening, and from a Control point of view, it’s hard to tell how serious these calls are. Some people are undoubtedly calling just for bog standard hayfever symptoms, and as a sufferer myself I know how horrible that “pins in eyes, feathers in throat, corks up nose” feeling is, but I wouldn’t call an ambulance from it. On the other hand, in some cases, the hayfever triggers a full blown asthma attack and the patient really does need us.

In other news, our control room is being refurbished at the moment. They are ripping out all the desks and making them point in different directions. This means we keep getting moved around to different rooms, no one knows where any of the other desks are and management have not been seen for several days. The highlight of last night’s shift was finding a big box of Christmas Belgian biscuits in a hidden cupboard when they dismantled the East Central desk. We ate the lot.

Published Jun 17, 2009 - 16 Comments and counting

16 Comments on “Atchoo”
  1. Chapati Says:


    I don't get it bad enough to need an ambulance, but my hayfever has definitely been worse this year than in previous years. My mum does though, you can physically hear that she is finding it much harder to breathe than she normally does. Her asthma doesn't affect her at any other time of the year, but in summer the inhalers come out as her hayfever triggers her asthma. Heck it was an attack she had due to that very fact that prompted me to take a first aid course, and now here I am, a St John addict!

  2. PsychedMum Says:

    Wow. The one time I had a full blown hayfever-induced asthma attack in the middle of the night (2am) whilst staying in London my boyfriend had the sense to bundle me into the nearest taxi (which involved a short walk to the main road) and we were at St Thomas' much faster than had we called an ambulance. I've never had an attack since, but then I am good about taking my brown inhaler now!

  3. Gene Says:

    I discovered that I am very allergic to olive pollen one night at about 3AM. We lived about two blocks from one of the great hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona so we piled into the car and drove there. It's amazing how quickly one gets through triage when one says "I … can't … breathe." And you don't get back to sleep that night after the adrenaline shot. :-)

  4. quixote Says:

    and management have not been seen for several days

    Hah. Funny how that works. Or, rather, doesn't work.

  5. seanohalloran0 Says:

    It really has been bad this year. I've never had hayfever before, but this year I'm getting it pretty heavily :/

  6. Spaigy Says:

    Just a quick question that popped to mind whilst preparing my car to spend the next 15 months whizzing all over the country – Is your computer system able to take longitude & latitude as a location? If I encountered an accident on a country road, the most accurate way for me to give a location to the emergency services would be through the Longitude & Latitude that my Sat-Nav provides me with? I assume all trusts use the same system – as I don't think this is really relevant for your desk? Craig

  7. Amylicious87 Says:

    My boyfriend gets hayfever every year, but this year it has been particularly severe and he's been diagnosed with asthma related to the hayfever. It can be quite scary listening to him wheezing and unable to breathe, esp at night – haven't yet had to call an ambulance though!

  8. Bouncy Says:

    Christmas biscuits?!!

    I hear some Abdo pain with D&V calls coming in!

  9. SteveT Says:

    Mum mum got taken to hospital a few weeks ago for pollen-triggered asthma, and wound up spending several days there. I suppose I should be glad I just sneeze lots.

  10. Suzi Brent Says:

    We checked the expiry date first… they were okay, just. Admittedly some of them tasted a bit soft but there were no ill effects!

  11. AndyB Says:

    @Spaigy, if you're going all over the country I don't think London control will be the one you want :)

    Some of the regional ones can take a LL (or EN) co-ordinate, so don't be afraid to offer the information.

  12. Dullahan999 Says:

    Knowing which road you're on and what village/junction you've just passed is the best, but failing that the system each service uses should be able to plot a location using long/lat, GPS or OS grid reference. Plus there are some handy conversion websites that will change whatever information you have into whatever the control room needs.

  13. Sage Says:

    I have noticed an increase in my symptoms this year, and as a newly diagnosed asthmatic have struggled through the past couple of months, but had a respite by going to Cornwall and it is one of my reasons for deciding to move down there permanently as my symptoms were much reduced by the moist sea air and a reduction in the amount of rapeseed grown in this area.


  14. Stonehead Says:

    We're in a rural part of NE Scotland with a post code that covers several widely dispersed houses, plus neither of the two roads that our croft sits between have names. Most sat nav systems send people to one specific house regardless of the actual address, but a few systems reject our addresses entirely as we have no street names.

    We thought the emergency services would have systems that could take different types of location information and allow more precision. That is not always the case.

    When I called the fire service to a major fire at one of those houses, the call centre operator would only take the postal address. As a result, one appliance ended up on the opposite side of the valley, with a burn, railway line and several fields in between. Another appliance went to a farm a mile away (and out of sight of the fire due to a hill in between), but was at least on the right road.

    With the ambulance service, it seems to depend on the call taker. When I've called the ambulance, some have only wanted the postal address but others were pleased to get OS grid references and precise directions. Grid references are vital for agricultural, horse-riding and rambling accidents in areas that are well away from roads.

    Police call takers have always welcomed the combination of nearest postal address, OS grid ref, and precise directions.

  15. Stonehead Says:

    And yes, I really do know key OS grid references for the area around us. We also have a list of key landmarks and their grid references taped to the wall next to the phone, plus our address and other details. It means our children and visitors can all get help to the right spot if needed.

  16. Tom J Says:

    How much of a hindrance has it been having the desks for different sectors being in different rooms?

    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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