Ambulance strikes: Patients might be taken to hospital by police

Patients needing an ambulance might be taken to hospital by POLICE OFFICERS as ministers draw up last-ditch plan to staff ambulances

  • The Police Federation confirmed officers could be drafted in during strikes 
  • Thousands of paramedics and ambulance driver strike on December 21 and 28
  • Police could join hundreds of troops and even taxi-drivers in contingency plans

Patients needing an ambulance may be taken to hospital by police officers on strike days.

The Police Federation, which represents around 140,000 officers, confirmed officers could be drafted in when thousands of paramedics walk out on December 21 and 28.

They could join hundreds of troops and even taxi drivers as the Government scrambles to draw-up contingency plans for the strikes.

But police chiefs warned officer numbers are already stretch thin and they are not trained to deal with the medical emergencies patients may be suffering.

Patients needing an ambulance may be taken to hospital by police officers on strike days, officials revealed today

The ambulance strike will affect emergency services across England and Wales on two days

A woman says she was forced to strap her grandfather to a plank of wood and drive him to hospital in the back of a van as there were no ambulances available after he fell and broke his hip.

Devoted granddaughter Nicole Lea found 89-year-old Melvyn Ryan lying on the floor of his home in Cwmbran, South Wales, early on Friday morning.

The 27-year-old said she had been alerted by a call from the emergency lifeline button round the pensioner’s neck.

After arriving she found her granddad had also suffered a broken shoulder and was bleeding from a cut to his head. 

But the firefighter, who lives in Pontypool, was left aghast after ringing 999 only to be told there were no ambulances available and none would come to help.

Nicole Lea, pictured here with her grandfather Melvyn Ryan, was left aghast after being told no ambulances would come to help him after he fell and broke his hip

Instead the call handler reportedly told Nicole to ring an out-of-hours GP and book a taxi to transport the pensioner to hospital, before hanging up in order to ‘answer other calls’. 

‘I couldn’t really believe what I was being told,’ said Ms Lea, who’s been Melvyn’s principal carer since he lost his wife Maureen to Covid in 2020.

‘I was expecting a long wait for paramedics but never thought I’d literally be told, “We have nothing to send, you’ll have to find alternative transport”. 

Read more: Woman’s fury after having to strap her Army veteran grandfather, 89, to a WOODEN PLANK to get him to hospital with a broken hip after being told there were ‘no ambulances’ available

It comes as a struggling ambulance trust begged patients to take their own loved ones to A&E if they can.

And ambulance services declared their highest level of alert due to overwhelming demand, with one senior ambulance boss describing the situation as: ‘The wheels are falling off now.’ 

Reacting to the call to step in for drivers next week, the Police Federation said that ‘police are not ambulance drivers or qualified paramedics’.

National chairman Steve Hartshorn said the request is of ‘grave concern’ as he warned that putting officers in ambulances would mean they are ‘not performing their police duties’.

The staff association said that the ‘thin blue line is already overstretched and under pressure like never before’.

Mr Hartshorn said: ‘Later this month we will witness the biggest ambulance strike action in 30 years.

‘Ambulance workers from all three unions are due to walk out on 21 December — this means that ambulance drivers, paramedics, call handlers and emergency care assistants will refuse to work across 10 of the 11 trusts in England and Wales.

‘A further strike is due to take place on the 28 December by members of the GMB union.’

He said police officers are ‘unable to express our own frustrations through strike action, even though we step in as a last resort to ensure public safety when others strike’.

Mr Hartshorn said: ‘It is no different with the ambulance workers’ strike as our members are being asked to step in and drive ambulances; it shouldn’t need saying, but police are not ambulance drivers or qualified paramedics.

‘At a time when the thin blue line is overstretched and under pressure like never before, this request gives me grave concern for the welfare of our members.’

He added: ‘Police officers driving ambulances may make sense to some — many officers are uniquely qualified to drive both emergency service vehicles, but this is where any similarity ends.

‘It’s important to remember every officer that would be driving an ambulance is an officer not preforming their police duties.

‘I have genuine concern for any officer who may be exposed to medical emergencies they are not qualified to act on.

‘The human consequences are awful to imagine, but we must consider the legal responsibilities and practicalities too. 

‘Should a patient die in the presence of a police officer, or within a period of time of being with a police officer, that officer is referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for investigation.’

It comes after North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) issued an urgent plea for the public to only use 999 for life-threatening emergencies or where patients cannot get there by ‘any other means’.

In all other circumstances, they asked patients to call upon friends and family to get them to A&E. 

NWAS said last night that there were more than 600 patients waiting for ambulances across the region. It blamed the freezing temperatures for a surge in demand.

Additionally, it said 100 emergency vehicles were stuck outside hospitals waiting to unload patients, with wards too full to take them on. 

Similar pressures were seen today. 

Ambulances took an average of 48 minutes and eight seconds to respond to372,326 category two calls, such as heart attacks, strokes burns and epilepsy (red bars). This is nearly three times as long as the 18 minute target but around 13 minutes speedier than one month earlier

Some Britons are already having to take ambulance duties into their own hands. For example, Nicole Lea had to strap her grandfather, pictured here after being admitted, to a plank of wood and take him to hospital in the back of a van after the pensioner suffered a severe fall

Ringing 999 on strike days? You might be taken to A&E in a TAXI, health minister admits 

Patients could be driven to hospital in taxis during the NHS strikes, officials admitted today after it was revealed soldiers stepping in to help may not be unable to attend emergencies.

Hundreds of troops will be mobilised during the upcoming strikes, with thousands of paramedics set to walk-out on December 21 and 28. It will mark the biggest industrial action of its kind since the 1980s.

Health minister Will Quince said cabs could be used for category 3 and 4 calls, which include patients who have fallen or have diarrhoea, on the day.

It comes after a union boss warned some ambulance workers could refuse to provide supposedly ringfenced ‘life and limb care’ on strike days.

In a plea made last night Ged Blezard, NWAS’s director of operations said: ‘Please only call 999 if someone has a serious illness or injury, you think their life is at risk, and you cannot get them to hospital by any other means.

‘We know there are patients waiting for our help and we are sorry that we are unable to respond as quickly as we would like. Please be assured that we will get to you as soon as we can.’

It listed emergencies which ambulance crews prioritise as cardiac arrest, a loss of consciousness, fits that aren’t stopping, chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, severe allergic reactions, burns and scalds, suspected stroke, and serious head injuries. 

This covers both category one and category two calls.

Category one emergencies are the most urgent and should be responded to in, on average, seven minutes. 

Meanwhile, category two calls are less immediately life threatening, but still serious, and ambulances should arrive in 18 minutes, on average , as per NHS targets. 

NWAS isn’t alone in battling unprecedented demand, with all 10 ambulance services in England having now declared their highest alert level due to ‘extreme pressures’.

A senior ambulance chief told the Health Service Journal that ambulance response times have dropped dramatically in the last few days as A&E handover delays have surged. 

‘The wheels are falling off now, we’re in a really awful situation,’ the unidentified boss said.

They added that ambulance bosses are worried about the impact of the nurses strike on Thursday, fearing it will exacerbate the bed-blocking delays that leave emergency vehicles stuck outside hospital unable to handover patients. 

Latest NHS data shows ambulance response times are more than double the target for some emergencies.  

Ambulances took an average of 48m 8s to respond to category two calls, such as heart attacks, strokes burns and epilepsy, in November.  

Family members taking their loved one to hospital are not legally allowed to speed or run red lights, and must obey other rules of the road. 

In other related news…  

Woman’s fury after having to strap her grandfather, 89, to a WOODEN PLANK to get him to hospital after being told there were ‘no ambulances’ available

Ambulance strikes could mean you might be taken to A&E in a TAXI, health minister admits as soldiers are drafted in to drive ambulances to non-emergency call 

Even Keir Starmer says nurses strikes are unaffordable: Labour begs union to negotiate with ministers as Health Secretary admits caving into demand for a 19% pay hike would divert cash from NHS 

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