08:48 Monday 3rd June 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: We’ve been talking about ambulances this morning, and asking whether private ambulances are putting lives at risk. A number of whistleblowers contacted the show. We also spoke to the head honcho from the East of England Ambulance Trust earlier in the show, which has garnered much comment from you today.
PRODUCER BEN STEVENSON: It certainly has, and a number more whistle blowers have come forward. It’s very difficult Paul, because obviously they’re very keen not to come onto air, because they don’t want to reveal their identities, so I’m scribbling down what they’ve had to say. And what we might do tomorrow on tomorrow’s show is get them in more detail again, so we can just go over some of these remarkable stories. I’ll just quickly zip through a couple. I’ve been speaking to a former paramedic. He worked in the service for nearly forty years, but has been retired now for around a decade. But he says he still keeps in touch with former colleagues, and he says it’s all about hitting targets, the problems we’ve been hearing about this morning. What they’ve done is taken a large amount of the two man ambulances, they’ve been taken off the road. And the two members of staff have then been given a car each, and they’re turned into what’s called rapid response cars. So they’ve got eight minutes, an ambulance on average has got eight minutes to answer a call to hit its target. And now what’s happening is these rapid response care are going out, they are hitting the target, but they’re limited on what treatment they can actually give.
PAUL STAINTON: Which is what we alluded to in the interview.
PRODUCER BEN STEVENSON: Which is what we alluded to in the interview. So he’s saying then the knock on is they can’t treat all problems. And so these ambulances that still exist are rushing round the counties mopping up the things that these rapid response people can’t do. This is made even worse by the fact that the sub-stations have been closed down within the ambulance service. You are talking very long long trips. And the person I’ve been speaking to, the former paramedic, said the staff have really had enough if it, and morale is very low. I’ve just been speaking to a gentleman we’re going to call Dave as well. He says that when he retired he saw an advert for a private ambulance firm. He applied for the job, and it said in the job description he would need a first aid course. Dave didn’t have one, but still applied, and when he got to the job, they sort of said don’t worry, we’ll sort that out for you. And he never took a first aid course. So I said to Dave well what, were you just a driver? And he said no, I was doing the whole thing, and effectively busting it. And one day he went out with someone actually from the East of England Ambulance Service who’d been trained by the NHS, and she was absolutely furious, and refused to work with him. And Dave says rightly so, because I didn’t have the qualifications. And the quote that she said was, ” Your lot, they’ll just appoint people off the streets.” So I said to Dave, was she right? And he says, he was living proof. He had no health qualifications whatsoever, and yet there he was, manning ambulances.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. We had a few comments earlier saying the media were sensationalising this. Well these are stories from your mouth, the people that work in this service are bringing these stories to us this morning, and some shocking and incredibly worrying stories from listeners to this show.