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Chief wants resolution to police cars being used as ambulances issue


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Officers taken away from frontline duties to step in for struggling ambulance service.

Chief wants resolution to police cars being used as ambulances issue

A police chief has spoken out about police cars doubling-up as ambulances.

Norfolk Police cars were used 43 times from December 2017 to March 2018 when no East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) vehicles were able to assist.

EEAST says it responded to more than 300,000 emergency calls during that period.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “The fundamental role of the police service is to keep the public safe and protect them from harm, which will be our primary aim in any situation.

“There are occasions where police officers are transporting seriously ill or injured people to hospital at times when ambulances are not available. This ultimately takes officers away from their frontline duties at a time when our demand is increasing, crime is becoming more complex and resources are stretched.

“We are working closely with the East of England Ambulance Service along with the other forces in the Eastern region to address and resolve these issues.”

An EEAST spokesman said: "National evidence shows that one in ten calls made by police to ambulance services result in people being taken to a hospital.

"We recognise our police colleagues may assist us with taking patients to hospital in a very small number of instances, and this is why we work with our blue light partners to drive down demand."

Other forces are battling the same problem. Nine revealed in the 12 months to March 2016 that police vehicles had been used more than 2,000 times.

The issue was raised last July at the Chief Constables’ Council where it was discussed among delegates from the police and ambulance demand group national working group.

Suggestions to overcome the problem included introducing new College of Policing policies and working with the IOPC to ensure officers will not be subject to undue investigation, giving them the confidence to leave people as they wait for an ambulance to attend other call-outs.

The group, which includes the NPCC, Home Office and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, has also made calls for forces to improve on recording all incidents in order to gauge the full extent of the issue on a national level.

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We will not know demand because in most areas it simply isn't logged.

Yet I hesitate from asking for more data...as it would likely result in yet another cumbersome e-form for officers to complete. 

What I have been saying, for a long time, is we need to step up and stop adding to the overburdened ambulance services problems.

If somebody is walking and talking with capacity the first question an officer should be asking is 'does this person *need* an ambulance?' 

If the answer is 'I don't know' then perhaps the officer should be guided by the patient and also their first aid training.

I patch up plenty of people, give basic first aid advice and advise to attend their local walk in centre or A&E minors department if they have any concerns. I used to be as guilty as anyone else 'wait there mate I want an ambulance to come check you over.' Why? Why do I need 2 to 3 highly trained emergency medical practitioners to attend a small cut, a twisted ankle, a black eye, a broken nose or other common low level injuries? 

Or if I do, why am I taking responsibility for that person? If the person is safe and there is no immediate risk of likely worsening - it's no longer a police matter. The fire brigade do not always wait around after a minor fire is out to see if the police will turn up. 

There will be times when you do need to do that. However that should be based on the NDM and a real appreciation of risk using our experience and knowledge...not calling an ambulance because it's safer. All we do is the ourselves up needlessly and overburden a partner organisation who probably currently are in a worse position than we are.

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I don’t disagree with what you are saying Mersey but the problem is, if the person wants an Ambulance we don’t really have the authority (so to speak) to refuse one however frustrating that may be. We work in a blame culture and unfortunately many officers will use the ambulance service to shift blame and negate that #### covering/“just in case” scenario. I would like to be able to judge for myself as I believe I’ve been in situations where an ambulance is not required and persons could attend their GP or make their own way to A&E. Sometimes it’s person perception within society that it’s their right to have one as they pay into the system.

If the Chief wants this to stop then empower his officers to make decisions or provide enhanced first aid training to the level that AFO’s have. The problem with that is once the ambulance know we have enhanced training they will he even less likely to attend.

I think I’m right in saying that the ambulance service cannot refuse to take a person to hospital even if they don’t believe the patient should.

It boils down to cuts, less resources and higher demand.

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44 minutes ago, Mac7 said:

I don’t disagree with what you are saying Mersey but the problem is, if the person wants an Ambulance we don’t really have the authority (so to speak) to refuse one however frustrating that may be. 

Maybe not, but we aren't necessarily obliged to call one for them and hang about for it most of the time either if they're otherwise in a place of safety. That is often the time sink, sitting about with people who could very well be told to ring 111 or 999 for themselves, left where they are or told to make their own way to hospital.

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No, I'm not suggesting we stop them from calling 999. But we don't have to ring one for them, thereby making it a police request for ambulance. 

I am not sure on the nuances of it but NWAS brought in a pilot where they refused to send ambulances out or they would send first responders. People were told to get themselves to hospital or walk in centre. Those who genuinely could not get there but didn't need a paramedic were given a taxi paid for by NWAS.

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