I’m writing today about an article in Saturdays Daily Express, “Health and safety rules have turned into a sick joke”. It’s confusing as it appears that the Stephen Pollard, who wrote the article, isn’t really sure about what he’s writing about nor what he actually wants.
The article starts with a mention to an unrelated case of which I have no knowledge nor expertise so cannot comment with any authority – however to ensure that you can read the entire article I’ve copied it, you also know I haven’t missed anything out.
The article talks about Godfrey Smith, a former Community First Responder who broke the law while responding in a service marked vehicle responding to a call. The marked vehicle is pictured here, in an article published on 11th September in the Metro. You will note that although it has green and yellow retro-reflective ‘battenburg’ markings it possesses neither blue lights and therefore it will also not have a siren. The Daily Express article concentrates on the fact that Mr. Smith exceeded the speed limit by 50% as the sole factor, whereas the Metro article shows that Mr. Smith not only exceeded the speed limit, but also ignored a ‘keep left’ bollard in order to circumvent a red traffic light. It is worth repeating that Mr. Smith did not, as he had neither, activate blue lights and sirens both of which are essential equipment for claiming those exemptions, exemptions he is not entitled to.
The article then states that no-one was injured as a result of Mr. Smiths actions, this is irrelevant. He broke the law, and according to the Metro article he broke the law three times (excess speed, fail to obey keep left bollard, crossing a stop line when a red light is shown). Apparently the SatNav on the vehicle required updating, again this is irrelevant. Anyone who has done any further driver training knows that observation of road conditions and signs trumps whatever the little plastic box tells you, if the road sign says 20 then that is the maximum permissible speed by law.
The article then moves onto the tragic case of Mr. Simon Burgess who the coroner recorded died in accidental circumstances. It is factually incorrect to suggest, as this article does, that a delay in sending in help to Mr. Burgess directly caused his death as the coroner informed the court that the delay in waiting for specialist teams “was not a significant factor in his death”.
The article then moves onto the tragic event of Shannon Powell. A young girl who first had a seizure and then went into respiratory arrest. This article fails to mention the fact that Miss Powell was having a seizure, this makes carrying her virtually impossible for any length of time and depending on the method used it can be impossible to manage a persons airway – without this airway management death would have been inevitable.
As a quick breakdown I’ll list the available options to carrying a person so you, the reader can establish why Miss Powell would have been left on the ground until the ambulance could be brought closer
- Carry chair – only possible to use with someone who is conscious enough to protect their own airway. Carrying over rough ground is possible, but only if the patient remains still
- Longboard – Requires the patient to be strapped onto the board, depending on the nature of the seizure this would be impossible, furthermore movement dramatically changes the center of gravity which makes carrying a seizing patient virtually impossible
- Scoop – see longboard for explanation
- Carry sheet (only some ambulance trusts carry these) it is impossible to manage a persons airway when in a carry sheet, meaning your patient may asphyxiate prior to reaching the ambulance
This article then moves onto what can only be described as a rant. Furthermore it incorrectly describes Mr. Smith as an ‘ambulance driver’. This ambiguous term means nothing in law – does the journalist mean paramedic? Or does he mean someone who, as in this case, drives a vehicle provided by the ambulance service? I’ve yet to meet an ‘ambulance driver’ anyone who is ambulance crew, regardless of their training, does far more than just drive the ambulance. It is worth remembering that Mr. Smith is not ambulance crew. He has training only slightly above that of a first aider and is limited on his treatment options, especially when compared to a paramedic or an ambulance technician.
What really bugs me about this article, and I mean really bugs me is that the journalist links to one of his previous articles, titled ‘Too many people killed by speeding emergency vehicles’ an ill informed article describing paramedics as ‘stretcher bearers’. The opening paragraph of this linked article is as follows
“Those at the wheel of emergency response vehicles can never be excused from driving responsibly. After all, far too many people are injured and killed on the roads by police cars, ambulances or fire engines going at breakneck speed.”
This is incredibly hypocrisy, in one article he defends a volunteer driver, who has no exemptions under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 or the Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002 , who failed to adhere to basic driving standards. In the other he calls for a reduction in road traffic casualties from irresponsible driving by emergency service vehicles, which it is worth remembering Mr. Smiths vehicle was not.
Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, as he has admitted to driving past stationary vehicles in excess of the speed limit and failed to obey traffic signs while in a marked service vehicle when not entitled to do so, I have no sympathy for him. It was his choice to break the law and he must accept the consequences. He placed significant numbers of the public at risk and that is indefensible.