It can be frustrating when you can’t get an appointment at your local GP surgery or if you’ve been waiting months for a referral, but a frustrated paramedic has begged patients to think twice before calling an ambulance for something that isn’t life-threatening.
Ambo Joel Phillips penned an open letter, revealing the immense pressure that he and fellow paramedics are under as they attempt to respond to a rising number of emergency callouts.
Published in UK newspaper the Metro, he pleaded with the public “not to misuse the 999 number” – the equivalent of 000 here in Australia.
“I have lost count of the times I have responded on blue lights and sirens to patients who have called 999 because they have got fed up of waiting in the telephone queue to get through to their GP practice – often exaggerating their condition to ensure a more timely ambulance response,” he wrote.
“It is not in my job description to book a GP appointment because someone can’t get through to them. I am not a hospital taxi service. An ambulance should be seen as a last resort and not the first.”
Phillips went on to say that there is an issue in the UK with the training provided to emergency call handlers, adding: “How a call from a patient with a nose bleed who is on blood thinners can equal the same highest call priority as a patient whose heart has stopped beating still baffles me!
“If we are to reduce the number of inappropriate ambulance requests, we need to address this, as it not necessarily the patient’s fault that an ambulance has been dispatched to them when not required.”
Phillips, who has been a first responder for three years, made the comments following an NHS review which found that ambulances are being treated like a taxi service, highlighting £500m (AU$901m) that could be made in savings.
“So often we are assumed to be just ambulance drivers. It is so important that patients stop seeing us this way and realise that we are highly trained experts in assessing, triaging and treating urgent and emergency care cases.”
Earlier this year it was revealed that Aussies have no idea how expensive ambulance rides actually are, with millions wrongly believe that they are free under Medicare.
A new survey of 2,085 people by finder.com.au found almost one in three Aussies – the equivalent of 5.7 million people – aren’t aware of how much an ambulance could cost them and believe they’re free under Medicare.
However, a callout in Victoria can actually cost as much as $1,776, with patients who live further away then facing a further $5.60 per kilometre. South Australia also comes with huge costs, with patients having to pay $976 for an emergency, then $5.60 per kilometre, the survey claimed.
Meanwhile, those living in NSW also face bills for the service, (around $372 for an emergency, plus $3.35 per kilometre), but the survey found it’s the most confused state in the country when it comes to costs, with over one in four believing it’s free.