I’m working with a new paramedic. After we check our equipment we sit and have a quick cup of tea. We talk about the pay offer, the miserable 1%. He says he can’t believe that the government is using the crisis to pit those that have suffered most financially against us instead of recognising our work. Our conversation is interrupted by our first call. We go out and get on with the job.
On our break there’s, unusually, a few other crews on station. One of them is writing a report about a violent incident they’ve been to, and we get into a discussion about everyone’s experiences. A few people report being sent to potentially aggressive situations without much information. At one incident the patient had a knife but they were asked to “proceed with caution”. It’s a phrase we are all used to.
On another, a crew were asked to check out the situation despite the fact that there were three violent people rampaging around. The bloke telling the story is hilarious, and everyone’s laughing about the chaos we manage. At the same time everyone acknowledges it’s risky, and shock plays a part in the laughter.
I ask why people don’t stand off and get more information. One person says no one really cares. There’s definitely a feeling that we have to cope with any situation as part of our job.
I talk about the change from years ago when we used to stand off from scenes waiting for police to attend, but as they got busier, we had to wait longer, sometimes for hours. It was uncomfortable that people in distress would have to wait for so long, and it’s good there’s been a change in understanding that people need support not a police response, but I’m really worried that crews aren’t delaying enough to assess dangers. Everyone gets sent out before we talk about what we need to do about it.
The day passes easily, which happens when you work with another paramedic. It’s good to share decisions and responsibility. It takes the stress away.
• Alice Hazel is a paramedic and activist in Unison