I am a paramedic who has recently stepped down from front line duties due to a back injury, however I continue to be in close contact with many operational staff who are still in the fight.

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Sadly, it feels like a fight already lost.

Speaking to many road staff about their experiences makes for bleak conversation.

Today’s ambulance service is broken. Ambulance crews are routinely brutalised throughout their gruelling shifts by an endless barrage of calls.

Throughout East Anglia, crews and lone responders struggle to reach emergencies to deliver the care they desperately want to give, but with a depleted fleet already shown not to be sufficient to meet demand, they now face the impossible.

Government cuts will see fewer ambulances and more single responders in rapid response vehicles.

This will mean that, although on the surface government targets may be met, behind the scenes it will be at the cost of patient care.

North Norfolk already presents the challenges of long runs to hospital from scattered towns and villages.

The flawed logic behind the new plans will see more patients left at home or encouraged to find their own way to hospital.

Those who urgently need an ambulance will be stranded at the scene of their accident along with the single responder.

They will be forced to wait for one of the few remaining ambulances which are likely to be queuing to drop off their previous patient at overrun A&E departments.

The Act on Ambulances campaign in north Norfolk performed a minor miracle by getting the East of England Ambulance Service Board to review their proposals, but reducing the number of withdrawn ambulances from five to three-and-a-half is unlikely to make a significant impact.

The long journeys remain. The call demand continues to rise.

I believe the EEAST leadership claims that new deployment plans will improve service are wrong.

It is simply a cost-saving exercise.

The funding has not been made available to provide the level of service that is needed.

Anyone in a position to make a difference, should do so.

Write to your MP, join the Act on Ambulances or EDP Ambulance Watch campaign, do everything you can to help. Otherwise, the day will come when the ambulance service might not be in a position to help you.

On behalf of the paramedics, technicians and support staff who will be struggling to do their best in these intolerable conditions, I can only apologise.

Your ambulance service may well fail you, but it is not the fault of those who eventually come to your aid.

Mat Westhorpe writes the Broken Paramedic blog, which can be viewed at http://brokenparamedic.blogspot.co.uk/

14 comments

  • Footyboy, you have mentioned this incident in numerous comments however if your wife simply went home and did not need hospital why did you call 999 in the first place, for a taxi? It is calls like this that are actually part of the problem. Unless you have a life threatening condition or are sick enough to need medical support en route to hospital you should be finding other means of getting to A&E, or even home in this case. An ambulance didn't attend because it wasn't needed. If you do call and get an ambulance when you don't actually need one consider that it's one less crew to get to save the life of someone who is seriously ill.

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    AdamE

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

  • Ref " Matthew Westhorpe" thats all well and good, but my wife laid in Tesco's for all that time, I had to help her to our car in pain and minutes after we left the carpark, 2 NHS emergency paramedics entered the store and were challenged by store staff as they thought the paramedics were there to treat my wife, their reply was "No we are buying sandwiches for lunch" and the store could not believe it. and this seems to be the norm..

    Report this comment

    Footyboy16

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • I'm sorry to hear about your wife's situation and I wish her all the best. However, I think you misunderstood my point - paramedics and other road staff can only go where they are sent. Once they are with the patient they will do everything they can, but they have no say over if and when they are sent. Those decisions are made according to government targets and funding, which is far beyond the control of the staff working with the public. That was the sentiment behind my apology. In truth, it is embarrassing and difficult for crews who are having to apologise regularly to the waiting public. But it is not their fault.

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    Mathew Westhorpe

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • thats all well and good, but minutes after I helped my wife to our car after 3 hours, paramedics entered the store to obtain sandwiches for lunch, these were NHS paramedics who were challenged by store staff thinking they were there for my wife. very disturbing..

    Report this comment

    Footyboy16

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • Mat is speaking from a position of knowledge and experience without the drive to satisfy any political masters with spin and hot air. Like other public services, the ambulance service are struggling with massive cuts to budgets, which, despite assurances to the contrary, cannot fail to impact on front line, emergency service delivery. Ambo personnel will strive to do the best they can, but the goodwill pot is not bottomless and they cannot be in two places at once. The squeeze on budgets has seen all services tighten their belts, which includes assessing which jobs must be taken, and which can be left for others to cope with. All public sector workers and especially emergency services personnel are being subjected to increasing demands, but in the end the only true losers will be the public.

    Report this comment

    rosie

    Monday, October 8, 2012

  • this is a NEWSpaper, both sides of the argument should be shown. In todays economy we cant afford to have Paramedics sitting around overstaffed as before.

    Report this comment

    michael

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • Mat is speaking from a position of knowledge and experience without the drive to satisfy any political masters with spin and hot air. Like other public services, the ambulance service are struggling with massive cuts to budgets, which, despite assurances to the contrary, cannot fail to impact on front line, emergency service delivery. Ambo personnel will strive to do the best they can, but the goodwill pot is not bottomless and they cannot be in two places at once. The squeeze on budgets has seen all services tighten their belts, which includes assessing which jobs must be taken, and which can be left for others to cope with. All public sector workers and especially emergency services personnel are being subjected to increasing demands, but in the end the only true losers will be the public.

    Report this comment

    rosie

    Monday, October 8, 2012

  • Mat is speaking from a position of knowledge and experience without the drive to satisfy any political masters with spin and hot air. Like other public services, the ambulance service are struggling with massive cuts to budgets, which, despite assurances to the contrary, cannot fail to impact on front line, emergency service delivery. Ambo personnel will strive to do the best they can, but the goodwill pot is not bottomless and they cannot be in two places at once. The squeeze on budgets has seen all services tighten their belts, which includes assessing which jobs must be taken, and which can be left for others to cope with. All public sector workers and especially emergency services personnel are being subjected to increasing demands, but in the end the only true losers will be the public.

    Report this comment

    rosie

    Monday, October 8, 2012

  • Sadly there will always be those for whom the service provided is never good enough. I agree with the comment regarding Footyboys "emergency". A genuine emergency wouldnt have resulted in him being able to take his wife home so it sounds rather like the ambulance was requested as a taxi. I believe that the author of this EDP article is genuine and that as a paramedic his hands were tied. I have several friends working for the NHS and they find exactly the same thing. The service that they desire to provide is compromised because of the need to cut costs. The moaners and the whingers who would complain bitterly about having to pay more tax are the same ones who moan when services are cut. Cant have it both ways Im afraid. Oh, and the lame argument about the hoards of NHS staff sitting around doing nothing or the zillions of managers paid film star wages for doing nothing is a little tiresome now...please change the record. Try supporting the NHS - writing to your MP to tell him or her how you feel. How about voting this shamblolic government out at the next election? Constantly hitting out at the frontline staff is unhelpful and quite honestly a low blow.

    Report this comment

    Babelfish

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

  • @michael To clarify, I no longer work for the ambulance service and am not "sitting around" at their expense. I was medically dismissed in August due to damage to my lower spine. The simple truth is that the pressures on staff frequently cause injuries and illness - far more than is necessary. Many staff soldier on for a number of years with worsening conditions and continue to work very hard despite the cost to their health. But there is only so many times you can carry obese patients down narrow staircases before it takes its toll. I left before I was crippled. And the ambulance service is anything but "overstaffed".

    Report this comment

    Mathew Westhorpe

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • @Footyboy16 As much as I appreciate your frustration, it's not the fault of the crew - they would have been completely unaware of your wife's situation if they had not been sent the job by ambulance despatch. They also have to eat and it would have been a complete coincidence that they came to a shop where an emergency was taking place. They were most likely as surprised as you and the shop staff. It's certainly not the norm, just a bizarre set of coincidences. Without access to the specific info of the day of your wife's case, I couldn't tell you exactly what the crew were doing in the hours prior to their appearance in the shop, but they were undoubtedly working elsewhere at other emergencies. Due to the sheer volume of calls that crews deal with, rules have been introduced to protect them where, after a set period (normally about 8 hours), if they haven't had a chance to stop, they cannot be sent any further emergency calls until they have had a chance to eat, rest and use the loo. To deprive them further would be dangerous, an ambulance crew cannot be expected to deliver a professional standard of care relentlessly for an entire 12 hour shift. The problem that your case highlights is that there are not enough ambulances available to cover the demand, the crews are struggling to do what they can but patients - like your wife - are getting poor treatment due to mismanagement and lack of funding. I agree with you, it is not good enough, which is why I have been speaking out to push for something better. These kind of situations would never happen and if sufficient ambulance cover was provided. I hope you filed a complaint - these unacceptable episodes need to be highlighted to senior ambulance personnel who misguidedly think they are doing a good job. And once again, I can only apologise that the ambulance service failed you.

    Report this comment

    Mathew Westhorpe

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

  • That will do then "I can only apologise" that will sort the situation out then. and makes things better.. as my wife laid in Tesco's in Norwich for nearly 3 hours waiting for an ambulance which may I say never did turn up.. disgusting and will not be tolerated..

    Report this comment

    Footyboy16

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • @michael To clarify, I no longer work for the ambulance service and am not "sitting around" at their expense. I was medically dismissed in August due to damage to my lower spine. The simple truth is that the pressures on staff frequently cause injuries and illness - far more than is necessary. Many staff soldier on for a number of years with worsening conditions and continue to work very hard despite the cost to their health. But there is only so many times you can carry obese patients down narrow staircases before it takes its toll. I left before I was crippled. And the ambulance service is anything but "overstaffed".

    Report this comment

    Mathew Westhorpe

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • Sadly there will always be those for whom the service provided is never good enough. I agree with the comment regarding Footyboys "emergency". A genuine emergency wouldnt have resulted in him being able to take his wife home so it sounds rather like the ambulance was requested as a taxi. I believe that the author of this EDP article is genuine and that as a paramedic his hands were tied. I have several friends working for the NHS and they find exactly the same thing. The service that they desire to provide is compromised because of the need to cut costs. The moaners and the whingers who would complain bitterly about having to pay more tax are the same ones who moan when services are cut. Cant have it both ways Im afraid. Oh, and the lame argument about the hoards of NHS staff sitting around doing nothing or the zillions of managers paid film star wages for doing nothing is a little tiresome now...please change the record. Try supporting the NHS - writing to your MP to tell him or her how you feel. How about voting this shamblolic government out at the next election? Constantly hitting out at the frontline staff is unhelpful and quite honestly a low blow.

    Report this comment

    Babelfish

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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