A Shift with our Ambulances

This week Parliament is not sitting, so I’m spending the week meeting businesses, charities, schools and services across High Peak.

On Monday I was privileged to spend a 12 hour shift with one of our ambulance crews, based in Buxton.

I am regularly contacted by residents who have had to wait a long time for an ambulance which is incredibly distressing when someone is very ill or in pain, so making sure our ambulances have enough resources has been a key priority for me.

Earlier this year I spent time at the ambulance control centre in Nottingham to see how calls are prioritised and our ambulances deployed across East Midlands region.

The shift on Monday gave me an insight from the perspective of our ambulance crews.  They have just started a new shift system, and most crews work 12 hour shifts for 2 days and then 2 nights, only finishing when the last patient they visit has been dealt with, which can be some hours later.

I was with paramedic Dave who has been working on ambulances for many years, and Jess, a technician who’s just about to qualify.  Both were impeccably professional with patients, caring and competent.  I was pleased to be able to help in a small way by wheeling the trolley, carrying equipment and talking to patients while Dave and Jess drove and updated their records.

I first met Dave last year when he visited one of my coffee mornings to inform me about the number of non-urgent calls to the 111 service which ambulances have to respond to.  I raised this issue in a debate on our ambulance service which I led in Parliament earlier this year and was very pleased to hear that the number of such calls has dropped.

However, High Peak ambulances are just as stretched as they are so frequently called over to Chesterfield, as Dave and Jess were.  During our shift we attended 2 patients in Matlock and 2 in Chesterfield, all four of whom had to go to Chesterfield Royal.  I posted a blog of our visits on my Facebook page for residents to follow.

That means our ambulance crews are seeing even longer driving times than they need to cover High Peak, and at times it can mean that they are not available to respond to incidents in their own area.

Coupled with a ban on overtime due to a continued lack of resources, it means that patients in High Peak can still suffer dangerously long waits.

I learnt an awful lot about the great work done by all our ambulance crews.  But I’ve also asked a lot of questions about resources for our ambulance service, and for High Peak, and it’s given me even more determination to fight for both staff and patients.