It is my personal opinion, that if you’ve had a symptom of an illness for 3 days, you probably don’t need an emergency response from an ambulance. You may well need an ambulance, but it’s unlikely that something you’ve had for three days will kill you in the next 8 minutes, when an ambulance arriving in 13 minutes (for example) at normal road speed would be fine without endangering the lives of the crew and the public by diving on blue lights and sirens.
So, imagine my surprise, to receive an emergency call from our wonderful – privatised I feel I should add – out of hours service, ‘111’. The call was for a female in her 20’s who’d had a three day history of “a weepy eye”.
Yep, our out of hours service had received a call from a young lady, unsure what to do on a Saturday, about her eye complaint. She probably answered the several hundred questions and was probably put on hold for an hour or so, then told: “from the information you’ve provided, I would recommend we dispatch you an ambulance”.
Imagine her shock as they probably forced her to think that, yes, yes she does need an ambulance.
I should explain that the 111 call taker (who is not medically trained) is able to dispatch an ambulance without actually discussing the case with the ambulance service. A case simply pops up on our system and the dispatcher gives us details over the radio.
Thankfully, we had a particularly ‘on the ball’ dispatcher today who stood us down and passed the case to one of the Nurses or Paramedics who work in our control room offering advice for cases such as this.
IF, and it is a big ‘if’, we had arrived at the address before being stood down, we would have to fully assess the patient, complete a full set of medical observations, complete all paperwork and likely as not refer them to their own Doctor or a Pharmacy. Even doing this quickly takes up to an hour, sometimes longer. AN HOUR that an emergency ambulance isn’t available to rush to save the life of a child with breathing difficulties because we are dealing with a 3 day history of a weepy eye…
(On that note, this is the same out of hours service that told my crew mate, when she phoned for her son with a temperature of 40.1C / 104.1F and was short of breath, that a Doctor would call them back within 6 hours! If you can fathom out how that triaging system works, you’re a smarter person than me.)