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Tuesday 25th October 2016

The dangers ambulance staff can face

7th May 2008

Writing in the Guardian, Tom Reynolds, an emergency medical technician for the London Ambulance Service argues that a drive to improve response times is putting ambulance workers at greater risk.


Ambulance workers are facing big increases in violence from patients as they go about their work.

The recent Healthcare Commission report indicates this as do examples we see everyday: of paramedics being attacked as they enter a house of patient with a long-standing health problem or a house where the patient has a knife.

We ask the police to attend on dangerous calls and have stab vests though they are heavy and uncomfortable.

But recent changes to the ambulance service are going to put us more at risk. Call Connect, the government’s new way of measuring ambulance performance, means we are finding ourselves going into houses without any idea of the possible dangers.

Once out of the ambulance, control cannot contact the crew, as in the case of the woman with the knife. She had told the call taker she had a knife but control could not communicate that to the crew once out of the ambulance because we rely on vehicle-based VHF radio equipment.

The review after the London bombings made a recommendation that the emergency services should have radios by the end of 2007. We may see them by October 2008.

Plans need to be put in place to help minimise the risks and radios are just one part of it. We also need to seriously think about how far we compromise crew safety in the pursuit of government targets.


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