Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Ambulance Drivers

"Bunch of ambulance drivers, disrespected......again"

If you read my blog regularly, you will know my hatred for the term 'ambulance driver'. To me, it shows a total lack of respect for what we do and paints a picture of us as taxi drivers with a first aid kit. This is NOT what we are. Today, at the Police Federation of England and Wales' annual conference, Theresa May, whilst talking about the police's resourcing to mental health patients said:

'Police officers have many skills, but they are not in a position to be psychiatrists diagnosing and treating mental illness - nor are you meant to be social workers or ambulance drivers'.

This made my blood boil! Rather than the usual rant, laced with sarcasm, I decided to take a more pro-active approach. Here is my letter to the Right Honourable Theresa May, Member of Parliament for Maidenhead, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Dear Theresa May, MP 
I am a front line Paramedic working in the UK and am writing to you in response to your comments at the Police Federation of England and Wales' annual conference. I'm confident in saying that what I'm about to say represents the feelings of my profession and the professional body that represents us.  
In your address to the conference you said: 
'Police officers have many skills, but they are not in a position to be psychiatrists diagnosing and treating mental illness - nor are you meant to be social workers or ambulance drivers.' 
Your comments are extremely dismissive of our profession and suggests we are not skilled clinicians, but just mere drivers. You wouldn't address, or refer to police officers as police car drivers, and you wouldn't refer to fireman as fire engine drivers because that is not what their professions are. Similarly, you didn't happen by the position you find yourself in. No doubt you got there through years of education, campaigning and hard work. You are given a title and are addressed as such by the public and your peers. We expect the same courtesy.
Since 2005, qualified paramedics have had to complete a degree course at university or study to an equivalent level within an ambulance service. There are many exams, high pressured assessments and numerous clinical hospital placements. On top of this there is a significant amount of patient contact time and many hours of studying prior to qualifying. To gain the protected title of Paramedic we then have to register with the Health & Care Professionals Council (HCPC), to whom all of our actions are scrutinised. We are held accountable for all of our actions whilst at work and when off duty.  
Not only are there paramedics on ambulances, but there are Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) all of whom have undergone significant training. We may all drive ambulances, but we are much more than 'ambulance drivers'. Just like there are many roles within the police force, in the ambulance service we have Emergency Care Practitioners, Critical Care Paramedics, Paramedic Practitioners and Consultant Paramedics. To bunch as all under the umbrella the generic term 'driver' is extremely insulting to say the least. 
Our professional body, The College of Paramedics, has been working tirelessly to get our profession the recognition it deserves, and I feel that your flippant words undermine our credibility, not only in the media who report and quote the words you say, but to the country as whole. We have long been fighting the stigma of being labeled 'little more than professional drivers' by Kenneth Clark in 1990 and yet 23 years on, it seems the governments view of us has changed very little.  
I would appreciate it, if you would recognise that we are infact medical professionals, in the same you you would credit doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, surgeons, radiographers by their profession.  
Yours sincerely, 
Ella Shaw
(Paramedic)

Thoughts on a postcard please peeps! Am I over reacting? Do I need to just get over it? Do we deserve more respect from people like Theresa May? Will I get a decent reply? So many questions, answer what you can!

My good friend Inspector Michael Brown, author of Mental Health Cop (@MentalHealthCop) has also shared his thoughts on the same subject. Interesting to see some parity across the 999 family. Go and have a read of his 'Ambulance Drivers'.



69 comments:

  1. Ella,

    Couldn't agree more! It's disrespectful and given the work yourself and colleagues carry out I can't believe someone in her position would address paramedics (ect) by such a term. I am sure Theresa May would be extremely angry and upset at being described as a 'woman in parliament' rather than a Member of Parliament were the situation reversed!

    PS - Followed the blog for a long time and would just like to say keep it up!

    M

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  2. No you are not ambulance drivers. Even as a child i never called you that. You are much more than a driver and you all deserve the recognition. No you should not just get over it either.

    Another great blog

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  3. Do you deserve more respect? After having had 15 different paramedics in my flat over the last 2 months for my mum who has been ill, i can only say, hell yes- you all do amazing work

    Will you get a decent reply? will you hell- my MP wrote to the ice-queen on my behalf several months back, and have heard nothing from her

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  4. I am exceptionally grateful that when I was knocked off my bike by a car, the following driver was a paramedic. She controlled the scene, called out her friends, took all the right actions promptly at the scene, and generally did the whole cape-and-tights superhero thing.

    The Tories seem to have set out to re-create the 1950s, when casual bigotry and class prejudice were normal and expected, and when toffs were not made to feel at all guilty for their overprivileged over-entitled arrogant behaviour.

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  5. Us on the thin blue line know you deserve the upmost respect from everyone, you are not over reacting at all.
    Total TOTAL respect for all you and your colleagues do.

    I really liked your blog the other month, summed up the bond between our services perfectly.

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  6. You are most definately not over reacting, we deserve to be recognised. x

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  7. I would push for a response, after all we are all tax payers. Even Richard and Judy apologised after a well argued campaign..... Keep up the great work X

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    1. Well there have been some press released on it so fingers crossed!

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  8. I do wonder how these cretins sleep at night. The Tory party should think back to a despicable event at a hotel in Brighton. No "private" emergency services were there that night! Utter bile from a hideous minister...in my humble opinion.

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    1. I'm sure they have no problem sleeping lol!

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  9. I'm not sure how I would be feeling in your position but let me me put my response police officer point of view on this.
    I don't think that by saying police were being used as 'ambulance drivers' she was using doing paramedics a disservice.
    I'm a police officer, I don't think my 1 day first aid course every year or so or zero training in mental health qualifies me to be a paramedic. However all to often our partner agencies (social workers, gp's, ambulance control) are calling me to attend to people in mental health crisis. As stated before I'm not a paramedic so my only option is to wait hours for a qualified person or take this person to hospital; so I'm an ambulance driver, another phrase could be taxi driver.
    It really does pain me to defend Theresa May though!

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    1. The problem here is what you are saying is not what said politician was saying. The argument here is that she refers to all ambulance clinicians (ECPs, CCPs, Paramedics, Techs, ECAs, ECSWs and A n E Support) as "ambulance drivers" which we are not , although yes part of our job does involve driving an ambulance but the other part is alot more and requires much professional training both initially and ongoing.

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    2. I see your point and a few people have interpreted that way. Our issue is, is the term 'ambulance driver' shouldn't really be used in any context. It isn't a role that exists and far to many politicians refer to us in that way. If she didn't mean it that way, it was a very poor choice of words!

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  10. Couldn't agree more well said !

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  11. Sock it to her.

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  12. I'm a Paramedic who used to be an Ambulance driver on PTS. I think I'm a better Paramedic because of it. In answer to your question, Yes, I think you're over reacting, as you said, "It made your blood boil".
    Teresa May (who I think is a vacuous reptile )was referring to Police officers driving people to hospital not being Paramedics. I think you missed her point, completely. She didn't refer to a Paramedic 'as' an Ambulance driver. I don't see the term 'Ambulance driver' as derogatory or insulting as I respect the work our colleagues on PTS do. It's just incorrect, that's all. No need for 'boiling blood'.

    Peter Leighton.
    Paramedic.
    Leeds.

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    1. I don't think she was referring to it that way personally. You are in a minority who don't take offence to it. The profession has moved on from the days of 'day work' or PTS. PTS do not do front line 999 work. If she didn't mean it that way and if the term was acceptable then why are The College of Paramedics releasing press releases and requesting a withdrawal and apology from Theresa May?! Are you a member?! Do you not want our profession to be recognised?!

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  13. In reply to police response officer....if you choose to transport yourself then surely you are still a police officer responding to a situation for the benefit of the public, in the current climate of public service cuts and an ever increasing demand on a shrinking pool of resources. You are not an "ambulance driver" unless you are appearing in an episode of Heartbeat.....surely? A period of time I'm sure most of the Conservative party long for.

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  14. Bloody well said

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  15. What he said. I think, sadly that allowances have to made for the fact that TMAY is a government minister who hasn't got the time to fully connect what she's saying to the impression it leaves on her audience, even if it is very important that her audience have a full understanding, and are analysing every nuance. Anyway in fairness. I think in this context she was referring to police officers without the necessary training or skills, taxying mental health patients to a & e in a wholly inappropriate way. In this context, she's probably right. Ambulance drivers is what we become. On the strict understanding of course, that the only reason it's necessary is that there are not enough of you guys available these days.

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  16. Having had my life saved by paramedics here in the US, I would say Ambulance Driver is a rather extreme insult. And, sadly, it's used here, too.

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  17. An excellent post! Hope you don't mind but I've nicked the meat of your post and mailed my own MP with it. I can't believe how we get run down by the establishment when it suites them.

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  18. Not over reacting at all. She should know better and your letter is far more polite than she deserves! Hope you get a satisfactory reply.

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  19. WELL SAID ! She should Know better

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  20. Theresa May is well out of order. Wonder how it feels for a politician to be seen as politically incorrect? Mind you, perhaps its what should be expected of someone that runs the Home Office and not the Department of Health, just a cantankerous Secretary of State trying to feather the caps of those who serve under her.

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  21. Eloquently written. Nice job...

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  22. Totally agree! But then I'm HART so presumably not entitled to an opinion? What's that all about?

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    1. The last time I had a call that hart attended they just sat and did nothing other than deploy that lovely command center. to be fair it's controls fault for deploying hart to what the fire rescue unit could deal with and who had arrived first.

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    2. Never said that about HART!

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  23. Losing Argument. Never Going To Change.

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    1. Well that attitude wont get us anywhere!

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  24. Nice to see the college of paramedics have got hold of this part of your blog and backing you and ultimately us in what you are saying.

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    1. Indeed! I believe my letter will be published on their website today!

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  25. Well said! I have been a paramedic for over 30 years in Calgary (Canada) and have always despised that term (and am quick to correct people when they use it). Funny story years ago when I was just a brand new paramedic we responded to a MVA. After parking the ambulance my partner and I were walking towards the scene when I heard a police officer yelling "ambulance driver, ambulance driver you need to move your ambulance". I was immediately irked (he should have known better) and chose to ignore him and continued walking. He quickly ran up to me and said "Hey Ambulance Driver...". I quickly turned around and said to him (very sarcastically) "What do you want police car driver". He laughed and said point taken! Kathy

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  26. In the past 6 months my family have had cause to call upon the Ambulance service twice, once when my father went into Anaphylactic shock on new year's day of this year and then again in February when I dislocated my shoulder.
    On both occasions the ambulance crews that attended were absolutely wonderful and I am very certain that without the highly trained paramedics that responded to the incident with my father then he would not be with us today and I would not be seeing him this weekend.
    You are not ambulance drivers, you are medical professional, and in my experience damn fine ones at that. Ms May was bang out of order.
    I have nothing but the utmost respect for the people who work in the Ambulance service it's a tough job.
    Keep at it, because what you do is incredible and I can never thank the NHS and the Ambulance service enough for saving my dad's life.

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    1. Blimey! Bad times! Hope you're all OK now!

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  27. too right send it we dont train to degree level to be called "Ambulance drivers" truly derogatory to the profession!

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  28. Good God! You don't mean to say they let the lady paramedics actually DRIVE the ambuances, do they??

    Whatever next, they'll be letting police ladies drive patrol cars next!

    ;-)

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  29. Send it to her. Seriously, it needs to be said. The profession will never be taken seriously and neither will the College if these points aren't raised.

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  30. Ella I had a beautifully written essay on how you are right to get angry about this, and how much of an idiot Theresa May is, but then my iPad went and lost it. Anyway the gist of it was that those who seek power are least suited to it, Theresa May doesn't actually care and you rock!

    Ella you are at your best when you are riled up, keep it going!

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  31. Sylvester Laciok2 June 2013 at 12:17

    Little wonder Teresa May refers to us as ambulance drivers when Andy Pendergast of GMB Union whilst claiming to represent ambulance staff describes paramedics as "ambulance drivers" on BBC London. Really appreciate your outrage and writing letter of complaint - I am doing the same.

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  32. Even as s a student paramedic out on the road, I still am more qualified to do a bit more than just drive a yellow box round for 12hrs!! Just like Mr Gove is rumoured to be teaching for a term, perhaps Teresa May would benefit from a 12hr shift, seeing what this driving lark is all about?

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  33. Sweet, does this mean we can bin all the admission avoidance crap then?
    CQUIN...means nothing now, AQI ...yep forget that too.
    Remember...be nice to the punter and take them to hospital...just like a good Big White Taxi Service driver!,
    #BWTS will rise again, the time is nigh........woohoo!

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  34. Have you disappeared Ella? I loved reading your blog

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