Birmingham paramedic: “We’re a very precious resource and should be a last resort for most problems”

Being able to dial 999 and get an ambulance when we need emergency treatment is taken as a given by most people – but with an increased demand on the ambulance service alongside call-outs for non-emergency situations, paramedic Rob Moore told BirminghamEastside how frustrating it can be for those on the front-line…

Birmingham paramedic Rob Moore

Birmingham paramedic Rob Moore

Rob is a paramedic working in ambulances in Birmingham for West Midlands Ambulance Service. He responds to emergency calls on a daily basis and is rightly proud of the job he does.

But with each call out costing £175 – or £205 if the patient needs to go to hospital – the need for crews to be used in the best possible way is a message that isn’t always getting through to some of those who make 999 calls for minor ailments.

As well as being a financial drain on the system, the challenge of dealing with non-emergency calls is also frustrating for paramedics on the ground.

“When we’re called out and not needed, more than anything it’s quite frustrating,” he said. “As a paramedic, I’m trained to deal with cardiac arrests, major trauma, and people with problems who might die if they’re left untreated.

“Ultimately, every time I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t need us, those skills are effectively going to waste.

“There are probably one or two calls each week where I arrive and either the patient has left scene, there never was a patient, or they’ve refused help.

“The one to two unnecessary calls each week only applies to just one ambulance in Birmingham but there are dozens more on duty at any time.”

Figures revealed that around 8% of calls are for genuinely life-threatening conditions, with around 45% of patients needing to be taken to hospital for treatment.

The recent BBC documentary series Ambulance has brought the reality of life for crews across the Midlands into focus – and for paramedics like Rob, there’s a hope people will see the challenges the service faces and make the right choices about how best to deal with their conditions or ailments.

“For anyone who’s unsure if they need an ambulance, I’d suggest considering what other options they have to get help,” he said. “Pharmacies are a really good source of advice, as are GPs and walk in centres. If they’re all closed, the 111 service operates 24 hours a day, and they use the same triage service we do so if the problem does need an ambulance, they’ll arrange that.

“It’s really important to only call ambulances when absolutely necessary because there are only so many ambulances here – we’re not an unlimited resource. Once we’re dealing with a patient who doesn’t need us, we’re unavailable to deal with a patient who might develop a life-threatening problem in that time.

“We’re a very precious resource, and should be a last resort for most problems.”

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