Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What a waste

"Wife and children were in property, now not picking up phone or answering door, ? collapsed behind closed doors, caller unable to gain access"

It's 1am. It's raining. I'm in a bad mood. The above, tarnishes the MDT screen causing the usual moans and groans, expletives and rants. Nevertheless, off we go. We arrived on scene to a plethora of blue lights. It was a tiny cul-de-sac, barely big enough for car to get through yet somehow there was a fire engine, the police and us in all our glory. It transpires that this 40 year prat has been drinking. He has lost his keys and there is no answer. As he can't get in so he calls the fire brigade. They in turn call us as it may be a 'collapse behind closed doors'. We in turn call the police to force entry in case it is a 'collapse behind closed doors'. Curtains were twitching, people were looking out their windows but there was a distinct sense of apathy amongst the emergency services.

The police go up to the door and knock. No answer. They knock again. No answer. And again. No answer. They shout through the letter box. No answer. Finally on the fifth time of knocking the door opens. A middle aged, very tired looking woman answers the door. She's alive then. Admittedly, the concept that a full time working mum of two could be asleep at 1am hadn't crossed her drunk husband's mind. In he staggered. No apology, no shame and at no cost to him. Everyone was stood down. The shared annoyance and frustrations of all services were apparent. It was an all to familiar scene which we were all powerless to do anything about.

When on earth are events like this going to stop? The fact is they probably won't. Not only is it a complete waste of time and resources but it is pulling the resources away from places they are really needed. I can only speak for the ambulance service but it is a well documented fact that there are not enough ambulances for the number of calls in the city. Waiting times are increasing, government targets for response times are not being met and financial penalties are being imposed on a service already struggling to meet demand. This type of call is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination. Every day the emergency services responds to 100's of calls which require nothing more than common sense but there is no deterrent for abusing any of the services. None whatsoever. I don't know exactly what this call cost the tax payer financially, though it is into the £1000's, but the cost to the people who need us most could be far greater.

Whilst this country and it's policy makers remain gripped by the fear of litigation and public opinion nothing will change. No government wants to risk public objection so the topic is rarely brought to the forefront and tackled. The topic of charges for emergency services has been discussed at length and admittedly there are no obvious solutions. The risk of deterring the genuine callers from dialling 999 is a risk that is not acceptable and to be honest I don't know the answer.  All I know, is if the call rate continues to rise at the rate it is and resources are continually wasted on idiots like this, then the shortfall in vehicles where they are actually needed will increase with grave consequences.


  1. You really want to be able to hand people like this a bill for the cost of the turn out of 3 services, but alas I can see the headlines already


    The sensationalist media will be all over it like flies around shite, its bad enough that there are plenty of people out there in need of an ambulance but "Dont want to be any bother" the same people wont call for fear of being charged.

    It really does make you want to inflict "pain stimulus" on time wasters.

    We need an answer to this but sadly one cannot be found. Here a €100 levy was imposed for A&E attendance if you arrive without a GP letter, to deter people from rocking up to get some ABX for their resp tract infection, all that happened was the service is still being abused by people who have medical cards, false addresses etc all the happens is the genuine people get a bill for €100 a couple of weeks after they attend

  2. It drives me bonkers! I just want to scream. What irks me more than anything is they simply don't see the problem. The culture of 'it's my right' needs to stop. My only thought was when an ambo is dialled perhaps charge an NHS prescription fee refundable is it was warranted. Hard to implement and probably impossible to enforce but something needs to happen!

  3. I've been to dozens of collapse behind closed doors and just been about to kick the door in when a bewildered, sheepish looking resident has opened the door having accidentally set off their panic button or similar device or even worse the situation you just described, you're right it's so frustrating. Normally two police units and an ambulance and a period of time trying to find another way in, so not having to justify breaking a door down for no reason.
    I think maybe some fine for wasting valuable resources in the extreme examples could be a very discouraging option.

    1. Yes you are right, that is why there is no charge. It's a tough one because people who are simply doing it because they have lost their key have no repercussions!

  4. How about ambulance staff being trained and authorised to drill locks? That way you can get into genuine collapses, but it would be a deterrent to those with lost keys, cos they would have to replace their lock?

  5. There must be someway to impose a tariff of sorts to blatant time wasters and publicise this. Examples like someone dialing 999 asking for somebody to come with a match to light the gas. These calls are recorded and could be traced and the person reprimanded and given a first warning.


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