Calling 999

999? Oh Great

Today, my mum had the misfortune to break her ankle while she was in a playground with my daughter.

It was an accident of course, but I had to phone for an ambulance.

And this is where it becomes more interesting. It took me over 4 minutes to be connected to someone who could even ask me what was wrong.

And then it took close to half an hour before the ambulance actually turned up. At this point I should make it clear that I’m not criticising the crew who, according to my mum, were wonderful. They got her to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and she was x-rayed and seen by a (good) doctor pretty quickly. In slightly different circumstances she’d have waited much longer, because the A&E queue was busy normally she’d have had a long wait, but today she was lucky.

We were fortunate that a guy who lives in a house behind the play area happens to be an ambulanceman, so he (and his son-in-law who is an ambulaceman too) sorted her an ice pack and got her leg elevated. He mentioned that just yesterday, the system for ambulance has control has changed to a larger, regional system. In fact, this is just the kind of system the government wants to use for other services, like the Fire
Service.

It’s lucky that mum’s ankle was not (in relative terms) all that serious, but the response time of the new system when a woman with angina and hypertension sustains an injury that could result in some complications has to wait so long for an ambulance is patently of some concern. And it highlights the problem of the regional control systems.

In a drive to save money [debatable] the quality of service being delivered by such systems is worryingly poor. Another sign of what happens when you let essential systems like healthcare be run by accountants.

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