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‘I was pouring with blood and the paramedics stayed put’

Need an emergency ambulance? Who says so, asks Larry Neild?

Published on March 30th 2011.


‘I was pouring with blood and the paramedics stayed put’

DIAL 999 when you need emergency help and you expect the police, fire or ambulance to be on your case within minutes.

So it was with personal interest I followed the horrific case of taxi driver Derrick Bird.

. Then came the shock revelation …. the ambulance was NOT coming to my aid

Bird went on a frantic killing spree across Cumbria, last summer, leaving 12 people, including his twin brother, mortally wounded.

West Cumbria Coroner David Roberts is to write to the Government pointing out the dangers of a policy there which prevented paramedics from reaching the injured and dying until the scene had been cleared by police.

It was two hours before some of the victims were eventually reached by emergency services.

I experienced this bizarre policy last autumn when I was a victim of a vicious attack by a pit bull dog in south Liverpool.

The dog had locked its wide jaw onto my left arm and was trying to remove my limb from the rest of me.

It left me with a severe, deep wound, pouring with blood. Although the dog owner and the dog did a runner, I was lucky. A security officer had witnessed the attack on a CCTV system and, as he ran to my aid, a colleague dialled 999 to alert the police and ambulance.

As I slumped down with a gaping and badly bleeding wound, the security man stayed by my side to await help.

After around 20 minutes, sat on a damp floor and feeling increasingly weak, I started to fumble around for my mobile phone. My helper tried to persuade me to stay still, but I just insisted on locating my phone.

I dialled 999 and asked for the ambulance. Then came the shock revelation …. the ambulance was NOT coming to my aid. The control room lady said they had had the emergency call, but were informed it was an assault, and they didn't attend assaults until the police gave the OK. I explained it was an assault of sorts - a dog attack.

She agreed to dispatch the ambulance, and it arrived reasonably promptly. The two friendly paramedics helped me into an ambulance, said my blood pressure was sky high and bandaged my wounds.

Some while later, a police car arrived, around 35 minutes after the attack which, incidentally, has left me with a permanent scar on my left arm. The psychological impact will also be lifelong.

Had I not made the decision to call the emergency number myself, I could well have been waiting – badly injured with hazardously high blood pressure – for around 40 minutes.

I am not sure we, the general public, are aware of these policies. I could have taken a taxi to the Royal's A & E and would have arrived there quicker.

Who came up with this stupid policy that wastes potentially life-saving minutes?

I am delighted Coroner Roberts is raising this issue. Many may say there is a logic for standing by when a crazed gunman is on the rampage, but should that same policy have denied me timely emergency aid?

Is there need for control room staff to be better trained? Should police officers ride on ambulances? I am trying to think up a form of coded words that will ensure the early arrival of an ambulance without facing the hurdle of a health and safety risk assessment.

In the meantime, we all ought to be made aware dialling 999 for an ambulance does not mean one will be on the spot within minutes.

The delay in my help arriving (not the paramedics’ fault) added to the distress, but perhaps because of the job I do, I had the presence of mind to react by finding out what had gone wrong.

I'm sending a copy of this column to my MP Louise Ellman and hope she will demand a full public airing of this crazy policy. I would like to hear what the paramedics, trained life savers themselves, think of it.

If the ambulance service managers decree help will not automatically be on the scene in seconds or minutes, you would think they would have let us all know.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

PC 49March 28th 2011.

It is a daft regulation, Laz.

Though it makes you wonder how paramedics in a big, square, cumbersome, heavy ambulance can possibly get to the scene before a high-performance police car with two highly-trained drivers aboard anyway?

Were they playing cards in the police canteen or something?

ADMarch 28th 2011.

Paramedics arent paid to be in harms way and policemen and women are PC49 is right its the pathetic response time from the Police to what they belived was an assult thats the real issue, although I cant see why they couldnt dispatch ambulance and police to arive at the same time.

I wouldnt be too quick to draw comparisons with cumbria, clearly what happened was a very unique set of events and day to day proceadures cant be designed or expected to work well with those circumstances.

first aiderMarch 28th 2011.

I'm thinking the point being made, Ad, is the circumstances in Cumbria were indeed most special. You would not therefore a similar stand off to occur in what, despite the trauma, was a localised incident. I had no idea ambulances would be held back in this way. Its quite frightening.

No judgeMarch 29th 2011.

Over recent decades discretion has been taken out of public life so there are no decisions to be made, simply rules (often presented as guidelines) to be followed. Don't we trust our public servants to take responsibility any more?

P.45March 29th 2011.

No because they're all being made redundant at the moment.

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