Never a dull moment

Alex Grant

Faculty: Medical Science
Course: BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science
Category: Allied and public health

3 August 2017

Life on placement with the London Ambulance Service is certainly never quiet. On a recent night shift in Camden, I attended 11 patients as part of a Fast Response Unit.

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Following on from my hectic return to placement, the call volume has certainly maintained a high frequency.

We were first called to a young male with sudden-onset abdominal pain, non-alleviating and a history of vomiting. This was graded as a Red 2 and my mentor and I on the FRU (Fast Response Unit) were dispatched. This gave me an opportunity to carry out a full abdominal assessment (which could potentially pop-up in my OSCE – or objective structured clinical examination – in August). Due to the severity of pain I cannulated him and my mentor administered morphine. As his presentation was non-life-threatening, we requested a Cold 1 backup; this means an emergency ambulance is arranged in a non-time-critical state to transport the patient to hospital. However, three hours later and we still had no ambulance. After talking to Red Base multiple times they said at least six ambulances had come within close proximity of us but were then re-dispatched to uncovered Category A calls. It was certainly the longest time both my mentor and I had ever waited for back-up. Eventually one arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The vast majority of our attendances to 999 calls over the night shift weekend in central London were to drink and drugs patients. This included going to a healthy young female, who was asleep in her flat corridor after police had dropped her home to make sure she was safe. The flatmates then could not convince her to make her way to bed, so they rang for an emergency ambulance. This use of a 999 system, unfortunately, made two emergency crews unavailable to attend potentially severely ill patients in London. Nonetheless, we helped her into bed, checked her over and gave advice to the flatmates on care.

Alongside these sorts of call-outs, the ambulance service has been responding to an alarmingly rising type of call: acid attacks. Publicised by the London Ambulance Service, it was reported that a FRU paramedic had a substance thrown at them through the window, as they were flagged down while responding to a call. It is a scary thought to be involved in a scenario such as this. It makes you wonder why people would commit such acts of violence towards public sector staff.

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