As you know, I have been spending time with a local police force in a unique and novel project for working together to combat drug, alcohol and violence in a local town centre. For an explanation about how it works you can click here for an earlier post, but tonight I thought I would take you through one of the shifts I have worked. Obviously various facts have been changed to protect patient and offender anonymity.
I Start work with the team at 1800, after I have stopped off at a local ambulance station to pick up the various medications that I need to have available for the upcoming 8 hours working with the police. Once I arrive at the police station we all deal with the most important part of the night…..Kebabs, Pizza and Chips!
Once we are fed and watered I head down to the police van to check the equipment that I carry :
AED with basic four led monitoring equipment
Full Paramedic Kit,
First Response Bag,
Full Selection of Paramedic Drugs.
Once thats all done, its time to head out on patrol.
It has to be remembered that this is primarily a police resource with a core function for the prevention of violence and alcohol crime within the town centre. They run a zero tolerance approach to drunken behaviour and underage drinking and for the majority of the time on shift, that comes first.
The sergeant, Dave, calls in to the police control to let them know that they have a paramedic on board and he asks them to consider us before calling for an ambulance if any thing happens in the city centre (Unless it is a serious and life threatening incident of course). I also call into my control and let them know that I am on shift and can be contacted if they would like to request us to respond on behalf of the Ambulance Service in and around the town centre. The important word there is request. If the ambulance service want us to travel outside of the town centre boundary, it has to be okayed by Dave. If the town is busy or they are in the middle of police duties, then they can, and do knock back ambulance jobs. This is rare however, and in the most part, if an ambulance job comes in as a Cat A, then we will go.
As we drive around, there are 5 sets of eyes looking out of the police van looking for signs of people being a little bit naughty. Its not long before we come across a large collection of teenagers sitting in a park area within the central area of the town. One of the officers expertly spots a bottle of cheap wine being hid behind a coat, and thats all that is needed for the van to come to a halt and the team to decamp. In these circumstances I tend to stay with the van. I will get out, because im nosey like that, but I don’t get involved in any policing matters. That would just muddy the waters just a little too much and would risk me as a medic losing my neutrality as part of the team.
I have to be honest, the first few shifts, I found it a little uncomfortable being part of these incidents. Dave and his team take no cheek or attitude from these ‘colourful characters’. If they are respectful to the police then they will be spoken to in an adult manner and with respect. If however, they decide to try it on, then the zero tolerance side of the team comes into play and they are left with little doubt about who is in charge and what is expected of them. This is obviously all done verbally, and now I have been part of the team for a number of weeks, I understand and appreciate the dynamics of this difficult relationship between police and those involved in petty crime and disorderly behaviour.
As they were dealing with the underage drinkers, another side benefit comes into play with me being on scene. I have a fluorescent yellow and green jacket on that shouts out that I am a paramedic. This tends to draw a little bit of attention, but usually just those who are interested in why I am in a police van. Once it is explained what I am doing there, and that it means if anyone gets ill or hurt in the town centre, they will have a paramedic by their side in less than two minutes, the response has been universally positive and creates a good talking point for a little while.
Whilst this discussion was going on, alcohol has been tipped out and the teenagers have been told to leave the town centre. As they walk off, shoulders hunched and attitude well wound in, we get back into the van and head off for another tour of the area. A couple of minutes later Dave’s head twitches to the side where his radio is attached to his coat as he listens in to some radio traffic. A man has been assaulted at a bar around the corner and the police officer on scene is asking for an ambulance.
“Yeah, hang off on calling for the ambulance, we have a paramedic on board and will go and check it out”
Less than a minute later, a police van turns up outside of a bar, the side door slides open, and out jumps a paramedic!
After a few quizzical looks, I get on with doing my usual job and assess the patient. He has a small cut to his forehead where someone punched him whilst wearing a ring. It is a minor wound but will need either stiching or gluing. There was no loss of consciousness, he has no other apparent injury and his observations are fine. Its still early in the night and he has only had a couple of drinks and doesn’t appear intoxicated.
I advise him that he needs to be assessed at the local hospital so that the wound can be closed. After dressing his forehead, he promptly jumps into a waiting taxi and heads off to the hospital less than 10 minutes away. I complete my paper work, Dave competes his log and we are off again.
From time of call to patient leaving scene – 8 minutes!
We stop off at numerous bars to chat to door staff and managers. Dave and the team share a good banter with them all and get some information about who’s in the town and whats going on. All of the bars, clubs and late night shops all have a dedicated radio service so that if anything happens they can link straight up to Dave’s team without calling 999. This again makes for an incredibly fast response time and fosters a real air of community between the publicans, shop owners and the police.
As we are sitting outside one of the shops, Dave hears one of the door staff calling for police assistance. He has been assaulted and has a head injury.
Again we are on scene in less than two minutes. This time the wound is a bit worse and is still freely bleeding. A dressing, some direct pressure and a quick assessment later and he is sitting next to me in the back of the police van whilst we drive him the short 5 minute journey to the local hospital. Again, no need for an ambulance, just transport to the hospital. In this case, and many others, the team are happy to use the police van instead of calling an ambulance into the town centre. It is a real benefit having the hospital so close to the centre of the town!
Even though we transported this patient to the hospital, we were again back in the town centre and patrolling in under 20 minutes from the time of the call.
It wasn’t long however, until the fifth member of our team, a British Army Regimental Police Officer, had to be called into action – but that is for the next post!!