Today's UK Ambulance Service is something of which this nation should be proud. The ability to bring a professional standard of healthcare to homes, streets and fields nationwide is a privilege not found everywhere in the world. To be able to take comfort in the knowledge that our health and our lives - and those of our elderly and our children - are championed by a national service of dedicated individuals trained and equipped to cope with almost any emergency is something we should not take for granted.
Yet many people do.
With that comfort comes a complacency that the necessary help will be available whenever it is needed; should a parent have a heart attack, or if a child is knocked down in the street. Many people assume that an ambulance equipped to deal with an emergency is minutes away and it will bring with it skilled and alert individuals qualified to fix the problem or quickly take the patient to a hospital where they can be treated.
But what if that was not the case?
As a paramedic with a decade of experience in front-line emergency care but who has now been forced to cease practicing due to a debilitating back condition, I can only watch as services are re-organised in a manner I am concerned will be detrimental to the emergency cover the general public needs.
The principles underpinning the Ambulance Service are something I firmly believe in and those colleagues who remain on the front-line have my utmost respect and support as they attempt to do their jobs in the face of impossible pressure. They are swimming upstream with their hands tied as resources are withdrawn, skillsets are diluted and conditions in which they work are worsened by the erosion of common sense. They are certainly not to blame for the falling standard of ambulance care. In fact, they are the an immeasurable resource that is relied upon to keep things working in spite of everything. But they are only human. Eventually, even they will break.
The Aim of This Blog
In an effort to continue contributing something to the ambulance cause, I aim to use this blog as a platform to discuss this faltering service and to highlight the concerns that an employed Paramedic could not, for fear of employer reprisals.
To be clear, it is not my intent to be defamatory or unnecessarily negative. The opposite in fact - I will continue to honour the principles of the Ambulance Service and the professionalism of the Paramedic workforce and those that work alongside them and support them. I will uphold the standards of patient confidentiality to which all healthcare professionals must adhere. I intend to be constructive, but I will not shy from hard truths and I will do my best to see through the weasel tactics used to confound the public into thinking that all is well. I have seen first hand that this is far from the truth.
I aim to weigh up the pressures which today's Ambulance Services face and to provide an honest overview of how problems might be addressed. Over the coming months I will explore the various challenges that face patients, individual crews, support staff and the service as a whole. Expect recurring themes like public accountability, resource management concerns, the role of the public, and institutionalised abuse. I will offer my thoughts on possible resolutions and lessons to be learned.
The Critical Patient
Any healthcare professional will tell you that the human body is a complex system of organs whose vital functions can only operate if the cardio-vascular system is healthy. Blood is needed to transport vital oxygen and nutrients to every part of the body and to remove toxins and waste products. Blood contains the means to fight disease, repair injuries and sustain life. Just like the ambulance service.
If skills can be diluted, stations can be closed and the means of transporting patients can be reduced, then surely the human body can survive with less and weaker blood. You do not have to be a medical practitioner to know that this is the recipe for ill-health and eventual death, both for the human body and for the NHS.
Ambulance Services are the blood of the National Health Service and right now it's bleeding out.
This is my call for help.