Thursday 29 November 2012

Just say No!

“51 year old female, can’t sleep”

You may have noticed a large proportion of my writing is done about night shifts. This is mainly because at night there are the drunks, the drunk drivers, the gangs, the violence, the stabbings, the business, the tiredness and the crazies! These are generally more interesting than picking up an elderly lady from the GP who has shortness of breath and needs taking to the Clinical Decision Unit (Can't Decide Unit) at the local hospital. Let's be honest... that would be dull! 

The other thing that happens at night, obviously, is people sleep. Some need 10 hours, some need a square 8 every night, others 6, and people like me cope with 4 or less. Everyone, now and again, has trouble sleeping. You’re either too hot, too cold, just wide awake, don’t feel well, are restless, neighbours keeping you awake or a car alarm repeatedly going off. What do we do? Deal with it! We try and try and try to fall asleep; we put our head under the pillow, we flip the duvet around, we take sleeping pills; anything to get to sleep! None of us want to get to that moment where you are awake because you are worrying about how soon you have to get up. Eventually, the alarm goes off and we all realise that we did, eventually fall to sleep! One thing we don’t do is call 999...

If there was anywhere for me to storm off to I would have done so in a instant.

“CAN’T SLEEP?! Are you having a laugh?”

My finger could not have moved quick enough to call up control and ask as politely as possible:



F**K!!" (I never really swear!)

The response I got was basically, and I’m paraphrasing here:

“I know, I know, it’s ridiculous, but she keeps ringing back so we don’t have a choice but to send her an ambulance.”

My crewmate sat there quietly while I launched in to a tirade of foul mouthed obscenities (to myself) about how much I hate this stupid job! I’m fickle; one minute I hate it, the next I love it, then I’ll blog about it and move on! 

After a stubbornly slow drive, hoping desperately we would be cancelled for a) a nearer vehicle, b) a higher priority call or c) no longer required, we pulled into the road and stopped. There wasn’t the usual grinding to a halt and enthusiastically hopping out of the cab. Instead there was a 10-15 second silence where we both just looked forward, exhaled slowly, then begrudgingly trudged towards the house. We were met at the door by the patient wearing her My Little Pony dressing gown and a fag hanging out of her mouth. We followed her into the living room where she sat down.

“So, what’s the problem tonight” I said whilst picking up some old ambulance paperwork off the coffee table. 

“I can’t sleep.”

“What would you like us to do?”

“Give me something to help me sleep.”

“We don’t carry anything and you were told by my colleagues 4 hours ago the same thing.”

Yes, you got it; this was her second ambulance of the night for the same ‘problem’. 

“Yeah but last time I really needed a poo so the ambulance men told me to have a poo and then go to bed.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“What? Have a poo? I did.”

“No, why didn’t you go back to bed?”

“Because I’m not tired.”

“So why have you called 999, which is for emergencies.”

“Because I should be asleep and I’m not tired.”

“Without being rude or dismissive, this is not an appropriate use of an ambulance. There is nothing specific wrong with you, nor are you complaining of anything that we could treat. You need to speak to your GP if you are having problems sleeping and stop calling us unless it's an emergency.”

She looked at me blankly as if I had just spoken to her in Mandarin about quantum mechanics. 

“But I can’t sleep.”

*walk over to brick and hit head repeatedly until the relaxing state of unconsciousness is reached*

This conversation went on for about 10 minutes. We left, having given her strict instructions not to call back for not being able to sleep; I had every suspicion that she would regardless.

I really could have screamed! Why did that conversation have to be had in person?! Why did she NEED an ambulance? Why did control HAVE to send one? Why has NO ONE got the power or willingness to say no to these people? Maybe when I can’t sleep EVERY night I should just phone 999. Clearly it’s my right. Clearly as a taxpayer it is what I am entitled to. Who cares what the consequences are or how much it all costs? No one apparently! What this country needs is a government with balls; balls to say ‘NO’! I don’t mean the wishy-washy policies and PR friendly trials. I don’t mean working-groups and consultations on the best way to say ‘NO’ without hurting someone's feelings. I simply mean:

*ring ring*

“Which emergency service do you required?”


“Hello, what’s your emergency?”

“I can’t sleep.”

*hangs up phone*

Simple! Don’t even waste the manpower talking to these people. By sending an ambulance we are making it OK to ask for one. It isn’t! There has to be retrospective fines for abuse of the service. The fire brigade now charge for various things they deem they shouldn’t have to do like lifts breaking down etc. The police can charge and fine someone for wasting police time. Why oh why oh why can the ambulance service not issue fixed penalties for people who repeatedly abuse the service?! It’s beyond me. 

Anyway, the night shift had a few hours left to run. We did a couple more jobs and at about 5:30am became available for our last one. I didn’t take long to get it...

“51 year old female, can’t sleep”



  1. Isn't it sooo tempting for Control to wait until they haven't heard from her for a couple of hours, then ring her up and say "hello, it's the Ambulance Service, just checking you managed to get to sleep in the end?" [:->

  2. My trust would say no to her over the phone. She'd be triaged for telephone advice and advised. She would be refused an ambulance. If she kept calling, the same thing would happen. It is now rare for us to go to stuff given as clearly complete nonsense. Well, it was until 111, but that's another story.

    So it can happen, if the trust want it to.

    1. Ours Is moving that way but some still make it through the gaps!

  3. This is totally unbelievable! Really, something as trivial as this should have consequences for the caller! Perhaps she was mentally impaired? Surely no sane person would do this?

    1. I'm generally pretty good at spotting the mentally impaired and in this case I think she was just bored!

  4. Anonymous number one, love it!
    Maybe when we're classed as an emergency service the same as the other two we'll have the same rights for things such as fines for time wasting. I think it is wholly appropriate.

  5. Speechless!
    You are right, why oh why do people not get fined for this kind of nonsense.

    1. So genuine emergencies are not put off from calling I suppose.

  6. Could she not have had dementia or some kind of mental health problem? It might not have been getting through to her that it was inappropriate to ring the ambulance for such a problem. Any idea if anyone else was involved in her care and could help her out..?

    1. I don't think so on this occasIon. Impossible to speak to her gp as out of hours but a & e not appropriate forger.

  7. Granted, I've never met this woman, I just rarely think it's as simple as someone just time wasting.

    1. Unfortunately there's a lot who just time waste!

    2. Ah, OK, I trust your judgement since you're a paramedic and I'm not! I guess I just find it strange someone of sound mind would ring the ambulance for such a reason! I don't think I could do your job..

  8. It is normally that simple as someone just wasting time

  9. After riding and filming with you guys a few weeks ago I am excited to say that EMS across the pond isn't all that different

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  11. Instead of sending an ambulance, control should have requested the police attend and have a stern word with this pathetic time waster!


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