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How Norfolk police are being forced to act as ambulance drivers

PUBLISHED: 11:39 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:24 16 December 2017

A shortage at the East of England Ambulance Trust means Norfolk police are regularly having to take patients to hospitals. Photograph Simon Parker

A shortage at the East of England Ambulance Trust means Norfolk police are regularly having to take patients to hospitals. Photograph Simon Parker

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Police officers are being forced to act as stand-in ambulance drivers and take patients to hospitals because of waits of up to seven hours for ambulances.

Police said the use of their officers to take patients to hospitals was Police said the use of their officers to take patients to hospitals was "not acceptable". Picture: Stock/SARAH LUCY BROWN

Norfolk Police began recording in August the times their officers had to take patients to hospital because there were not enough ambulances.

From August to the end of November, it has happened more than 50 times, according to a Freedom of Information request from North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb to the Constabulary.

On August 27 and September 11 police took patients to hospitals three times a day.

Many of the cases are for patients with mental health problems where the person needs taking to a secure mental health unit but the police end up doing it themselves because of the wait.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb obtained the figures from Norfolk Police. Picture: ANTONY KELLY North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb obtained the figures from Norfolk Police. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

But they are also taking people injured in crashes to hospitals because an ambulance can not get there in time.

On September 16 in King’s Lynn two police cars waited at the scene of a road accident with an injured moped rider for one hour and 20 minutes for an ambulance.

And on October 23, police took a man to hospital after a minor car crash because they were told the ambulance would be five hours.

Meanwhile, the log from September 18 for a call in Thetford read: “Police had to transport a pregnant, intoxicated, self-harming female to A&E as they had already been waiting two hours for an ambulance and it would be at least another hour before ambulance could attend.”

Then on November 8 an 85-year-old who was a victim of robbery had a minor injury - a suspected fractured finger - and police took them to hospital as the ambulance service could not give a time of arrival.

Five days later in Diss they were told the wait for an ambulance would be seven hours for a man with head injuries.

Mr Lamb said: “This is scandalous evidence of the police having to pick up the pieces while NHS services are stretched to breaking point.”

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) said it needed more money to meet demand and had to prioritise the most urgent calls.

They said: “Our priority, as always, is to deliver the best patient care we can with the resources we have – but we know we can do better if we can attract more funding for staffing.

“We’re working hard with commissioners and our partners to improve this, and the introduction of the ambulance response programme will reduce waits, however, this will take time for the benefits to be seen in the community.

“As a trust we have to prioritise those with the most life-threatening and time critical conditions first such as cardiac arrests, strokes, patients with chest pain and breathing difficulties.”

A police spokesman said the “regular and repeated” use of police to take patients to hospital was “not acceptable”.

They added: “We will always support other emergency services and our officers are dedicated to helping the public when our assistance is required, however, doing this does place considerable strain on our own resources and limits our ability to deal with our core business.”

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