From the TUC

Behind the blue lights: Life in the frontline of Cameron’s NHS

23 Nov 2015, By Guest

Dave, a paramedic from the Midlands, shares a frank view of life in NHS emergency services starved of funding and struggling to meet the demand

Friday. Just started a 12 hour late shift. On again with a new starter. Appears too bubbly and the keenness has yet to wear off, but it will. 1st job, a 111 call. It’s already been in for nearly 30 minutes before we get it, at least we’re consistent with making people wait, these days everybody waits.

Lunchtime. 4 jobs done, not all emergencies either. Still got a crew mate thanking control for each job, still been told how fed up everyone is each time I see another crew at hospital. Again consistency.

Never enough vehicles for the demand. More doom and gloom from colleagues at hospital, topic of conversation – how long of the shift left, how long before being able to retire and what other jobs are out there for Paramedics. More consistency, same conversations for last few years.

End of the shift, how lucky we are, more overtime without even asking for it. Winters coming so that will become the daily routine again, a 12 hour shift with a late finish guaranteed, make that 13 hours.

Saturday. More consistency, it’s the weekend and control are trying to pass me a job even before start time. Barely enough time to check the vehicle for road worthiness, load the controlled drugs on and check the stocks.

Jobs still rolling, colleague still smiling. I used to think I had found a dream job I could do and enjoy for the rest of my working life, how this has changed. We used to make a difference to people who needed us, but now it’s all targets: 8 minute response target, 30 minute at hospital turn-around target, KPI targets.

Another late job to finish. The second child with a ragging temperature, of the day. Another indication winters on the way, that and I’m working Christmas again.

It’s Sunday, the day of rest. Another day of racing round doing 111 jobs. Need to ask for a pay rise, instead of a pay freeze, that’s the second day running somebody has asked 111 for an out of hours GP visit and got me! Everywhere you look, NHS is stretching to breaking point to meet demand. The second day running I’ve made a patient a GP appointment after they had requested one but been sent an ambulance as an 8 minute response. Is this how they’re meeting GP appointment targets?

Just spent a few hours in the police’s company at a suspicious death. Police and coroners statements, and in the perverse way the ambulance service works I had a successful outcome. I got there in 5 minutes, well below the 8 minute target although the patient was already deceased. Get there in 9 minutes and revive a patient, it’s a failure. Tell that to the relatives. Been stuck on the scene for a few hours. I’ve got tape tied to the ambulance and there’s a crowd gathering. I feel sorry for the family having to stand out in the street and watch this. Spent a bit of time talking to the police as well. Sounds like they are really struggling with cuts, worse than us. Can’t believe the figures they’re telling me of officers on duty, now I know why we have to wait so long for police attendance at jobs, there isn’t any.

I had a long chat with my (still) smiling colleague. I’ve found out what she did before, why she wanted to become a Paramedic and most worryingly how much she is getting paid after having her training costs/university fees deducted from her wages. What a disgrace.

Home time, and to be consistent another late finish. 1 hour 15 minutes. That’s 3 hours 30 minutes in 3 days, and I’m late trying to sort out some support from our over-stretched local mental health teams – without success, more consistency they ended up in the local A&E department.

Monday. Its GP referral day, well afternoon once the GP’s have seen the backlog from the weekend, we take what appears to be most of the patients to hospital.

One of my best mates in the service has told me he’s got his figures from NHS pensions through and can afford to go in 18 months. He’s one of the lucky ones still allowed to take his pension at 60, for me it’s 67. I get to pay 50% more in, and wait an extra 7 years to get it back.

It’s Monday afternoon, A&E is full, back to queuing in the corridors, and although it’s cold and damp, it’s not winter. No ice or snow yet, it’s going to get tougher soon. Two croup cases to finish back to back. It’s definitely getting colder, the children’s A&E section is full, and plenty of ‘barking’ little ones in there.

An on time finish, now that’s different, maybe the weeks starting with a change in policy – finishing times do exist and are not just guidance.


Cuts to NHS funding are hurting right across the service. We need David Cameron to change direction and fully fund our NHS in this week’s Comprehensive Spending Review: 11 ways Cameron’s cuts are hurting the NHS

2 Responses to Behind the blue lights: Life in the frontline of Cameron’s NHS

  1. Sandra Slack
    Nov 24th 2015, 12:52 pm

    Dave I really feel for you. I think you do amazing work and wish the Government could treat you with more respect and concrete reward. Please keep going we need people like you. I belong to 38 degrees and we will keep campaigning for things to improve for you. I am 72 years old and in a wheelchair. I am so grateful that you are there when I need you. As I grow older I may need you more. We must all keep fighting until this awful Government hears us. Sandy.

  2. Margaret turner
    Nov 24th 2015, 5:13 pm

    I could cry, without your dedication and great service we have needed more times than I can count my husband wouldn’t be here now, we as a family are more than grateful for all the work you do and have done for us,in my experience you are the heroes of our health service and I pray things will get easier for you,please don’t give up ,take care and keep fighting this have our utmost respect.