This account, written by a Police Officer serving on a response team, was sent into us on the condition of anonymity. It gives an insight into the increase in the number of incidences where Police units are being sent to medical emergencies when there are no ambulances to send:
“Whilst I have nothing but support for my colleagues in green I want to highlight some of the experiences I and my team have faced recently which go some way to show how stretched the ambulance service is.
I am a cop working in a North Eastern force. Some years ago our local ambulance service merged and became the North East Ambulance service.
It would seem (certainly feels like) the merger has had a detrimental effect on resources.
I know I have spoken to several paramedics who tell horror stories of bouncing up the country to the Scottish boarders dealing with jobs only to try to return to their home station and be diverted.
I am aware that they get calls right up-to the last minute of their shift and are expected to turn out. One way they seem to cover their stretched resources is to use the police to triage incidents.
I have attended incidents where an ambulance is needed but after our control speaks to their control and vice versa it is clear there are no ambulances.
Two recent examples of this is one when a young male (foolishly) had a firework explode in his hand. His fingers split to the bone with associated blood loss.
An ambulance was called however they did not attend. I seem to recall they stated it would be at least a 4 hour wait. There’s the dilemma. We have a duty of care to the male.
He had no money for a taxi and no other means of getting to hospital. Do we allow him to walk there? Do we go against force policy and transport him? (Force policy being that a police vehicle is only used in a life/death situation).
What if he gets in the van and gets an infection from sitting in the cage (Not all out customers are well kept!) From the publics perception we are an emergency service – there to help so why are we not helping?
On that occasion the male was taken to hospital in the van with a heavily bandaged hand.
On another occasion a female had been assaulted outside a local pub. She had been knocked to the ground went unconscious for around 60 seconds. When she came round she was clearly disorientated and had a lump on her head. Again an ambulance was called but there was none available.
After AN HOUR the family were unimpressed at the lack of perceived help by the police. (After careful consideration it was felt that a police vehicle was not appropriate).
The family took her to hospital in a taxi. My team have dealt with incidents which have seen an elderly male suffering a fractured neck of femur laying on a cold floor again for numerous hours waiting for an ambulance.
We seem to get a larger number of incidents (esp. MH) where ambulance control contact us stating that the patient is violent or has weapons. When we arrive there is no ambulance on scene (So how do they know the patient is violent/ has weapons).
When we ask for an ambulance we are told that one has not been assigned and can we deal using our powers etc. This is a wholly unsafe and impracticable way of dealing with vulnerable people who require medical attention and not police involvement.
I do not blame the front line staff. I am fully aware of how stretched they are and we have a good working relationship with all our paramedics and EMTs. The issue seems to be in the offices.
It appears to be the control room playing a figures game and making resources stretch. If police attend they often can get away with not sending an ambulance knowing we will find a solution as we can not afford our own units to be tied up.
How long will it be before this way of working comes back to bite us (Collectively) in the backside.
I have a basic first aid at work qualification. The first aid kit in my police vehicle is fairly inadequate and often opened and non sterile.
I am neither qualified nor experienced to deal with medical issues.
However if I do not act I am held to account. If I transport and this itself has a detrimental effect on the patient (unseen injury made worse etc.) I am held to account.
I request a more appropriate service to deal but if they do not attend who does the book stop with. Who is held to account should someone die?
Again I have nothing but admiration and support for my green colleagues and I am sure that they are not aware of a large number of calls police are requested to attend but something needs to change”.
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I think in London, more common now with cardiac arrest given response vehicles have state of the art defib (AED) on board. LAS has ‘Non Emergency Transport’ Ambulances with AED, Oxygen, Entonox that could be deployed at a pinch also. Also, one Blue Line on scene, less important to get there quickly as ELS trained on site. Never heard of deliberate lies about weapons, though.
It’s the same in the south west
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, an often rural area populated by reasonable sized small cities/large towns located about every 30 miles apart with small hospitals, is n area surrounded on three sides by either the Atlantic Ocean or the Chesapeake Bay. Most of the Fire Compnies are volunteers with donations and grants often paying for one or two Paramedics on duty. In the rural areas police are often simultaneously dispatched with an ambulance. Most police have 80 hours of emergency medical training. Police cars about 50% of the time have a first aid kit and an ADT. (Automatic Defibrillator). While Police don’t frequently have to transport, they are used to help lift or stabilize the patient. We are often sent on fire calls to direct traffic and some police who are also volunteer firefighters sometimes have to lend a hand holding a fire hose or direct traffic, whatever is needed. One time when a natural gas explosion, killed or injured the entire fire crew,mthe police officers grabbed the hoses and fought the house fire until another fire engine could respond. Not in our job description. Frequently we refer to that section of the Manuel that says perform other duties as required. This does lead to good cooperation between the P-F-A Employees. We do what we can, when we can. Mass casualty training has recommended transporting critically injured in the back of police cars rather than waiting for overworked EMS crews. Better to treat an infection than loose a life, such as a mass shooting or natural disaster. While police should not be used to dump patients on, in an emergency everyone pitches in to help.