“Call a hambulance! I’ve eaten too many Percy Pigs and now I think I’ve got swine flu!”
I’ve just come back from three weeks’ leave and found the service absolutely inundated with calls from people who think they have swine flu. No one seems to have taken any notice whatsoever of the NHS’s advice, which is to ring your GP if you are worried that you may have a touch of hamthrax. (The only expection is if someone develops life threatening symptoms as a result of the flu, which is extremely rare and usually only seen in people who had poor health to start with). No, the general public have cleverly decided that they want to take their piggy germs to a hospital where they can spread it to thousands of sick and pregnant people and on their way infect a poor ambulance crew who will then go off sick for a week, leaving our resources even more stretched.
As usual, we are not allowed to refuse anyone an ambulance, so the crews have no option but to mask up and go in. Once they arrive and confirm that the situation is a non life threatening case of suspected swine flu, the crews just have to arrange a GP for the patients like they should have done themselves in the first place. Our protocol is that all GP requests are made via Control, because our phone lines are recorded and crews’ mobiles aren’t, so we have been run off our feet calling GPs this weekend. While we are used to making the odd call to GPs whilst getting on with our job, it is extremely dangerous to have allocators and radio ops tied up on these calls when they are supposed to be allocating and operating radios.
Personally, I’d like to see a blanket no send policy on all calls to patients with flu symptoms only unless the call has been authorised by a doctor. Call takers should just be able to say “Are you worried you have swine flu? Well, you shouldn’t be calling us. Call a GP instead.” and the patient would go away and sort out their own GP without tying us up. I can’t see that happening, though.
It is all very stressful. I never want to see another pig again. I am even off my Percy Pigs though I am sure that will pass. I just hope no one in the control room catches it, because I’m sure if they do we will all go down with it and then there will be a huge staffing crisis and I will have to do lots of overtime.