You Deserve Better

Ambulance Wait Times – A Disgrace

Liz Truss famously called our proportion of imported cheese “a disgrace”. I disagree. I think that world trade is generally a good thing, especially for things that other countries famously do extremely well. The idea of self-sufficiency is a fairly laudable one, but not for something like cheese. Energy, yes. Education, yes. Healthcare, yes. Cheese? Not so much.

This leads me nicely on to the topic of ambulance wait times, which are a genuine disgrace. I have a personal story associated with this, though I have kept some of the details private.

I had cause to report a medical emergency this weekend. It wasn’t a life-threatening issue, but it was debilitatingly painful for the person involved. I consulted NHS 111 because I wasn’t sure that an ambulance was warranted, and that site said to call 999, which I promptly did. I was then on hold for nearly 9 minutes, constantly being told that “the ambulance service is very busy” and “the first question you will be asked is ‘is the patient breathing?'”. Luckily the patient was indeed breathing, otherwise I expect that 9 minutes would have been more than though time for brain death to set in.

Ambulance with rear doors open to show the inside.

One of our fine ambulances, though I didn’t see them in this case.

Once I finally managed to speak to an operator, they went through the triage process and concluded that we didn’t need an ambulance, referring us back to NHS 111 (who, if you recall, had already concluded that we did in fact need to call 999). At this point we decided that it would be safer to move the patient to an appropriate A&E department, as it seemed that neither of the two services available to us was prepared to help. I do not blame either service, as the levels of chronic underfunding mean they have to select which patients to work with, and the lack of a unified approach means that the two services are ultimately encouraged to blindly pass cases between themselves.

Returning to my first point, this is the true disgrace. Had the patient in this case been a heart attack, stroke or other major accident victim, they would likely have died while I was on hold to 999. The idea that an emergency call should take 9 minutes just to connect to an operator is simply not good enough. Indeed, the target ambulance response time for a maximum-severity case is supposed to be 7 minutes, so a 9-minute wait to even speak to someone breaches that target before the ambulance can even be dispatched.

The true disgrace is not that we import the wrong amount of cheese, it’s that we have so badly underfunded and under-resourced our emergency and health services that we as taxpayers can’t even speak to an emergency operator in a reasonable time when we need help.

I won’t even go into the waiting times once we actually got to A&E, as that’s something that has been covered extensively elsewhere, but I thought it would be useful to offer some insight into ambulance services from someone that actually needed help.

Final thought: patient was eventually discharged from A&E with strong painkillers and an instruction to return to hospital the following work day for investigatory work.

No longer a candidate, so now focusing on my own projects.

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