I used to be a physiotherapist and worked in the NHS but I also worked for football, rugby and American Football teams. There were other medical professionals to call on but I was the first contact for injured players. Some would be standing and ready to play again before I reached them. On some occasions the game stopped and an ambulance had to take the player to hospital. It was usually fairly obvious when players had to go to hospital and if there was any doubt then I would send them.
On one occasion an American Football player broke his collar bone. Diagnosis wasn't difficult as you can see a broken clavicle. He asked me if he could play on and I had to tell him that he was on his way to hospital. I mention this player because sometimes you can get fairly serious injuries and not think that you have to go to hospital. There must be many people who don't need an ambulance to get to A&E. Some can walk or catch a taxi or get a friend to drive them. A friend drove me on the one occasion that I needed to stay in hospital following a rugby injury (I was playing at the time, not the physio).
I don't think there is anything that is too controversial in the last two paragraphs, so why did we get Andy Burnham, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health condemning the use of taxis yesterday in the House of Commons? Apparently Bristol is the place at the centre of the ambulance/taxi story with the 350% increase in taxi use: the story is that 'The former Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS), which operated in the Bristol area until February this year, sent 158 taxis to 999 calls in 2012/13, according to figures obtained by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham'.
So it is a former service, it doesn't even operate any more and hasn't since February, and, significantly 158 taxis in a year is less than one every two days. The Bristol Post story also points out,
'A spokeswoman for SWAS said: “Taxis are only used to transport patients in a very small minority of cases where it is clinically safe and appropriate to do so. This would not occur in emergency or life threatening situations.
“In percentage terms the use of taxis across the north division (former GWAS) is less than 0.05 per cent of the total number of calls responded to during 2012/13 which stands at 288,538.” It may be appropriate to use taxis and would save the tax payer a lot of money if we get patients to hospitals using the most efficient method. There may even be a case for a police officer driving someone to hospital (which was also a complaint made by Andy). Let's say that no ambulance is available and minutes are important to the health of the casualty. I can imagine many scenarios in which the police, vital though their task is to keep law and order, may take out a few minutes and act as a taxi/ambulance driver.
Andy said "information from police forces reveals that cases in which police cars
have to ferry patients to A&E are far more widespread than people
realise..." I don't know what people realise so I can't comment on that but taking a patient to hospital is not such a bad thing, even for a police officer. It may not be in the job description but that officer would always have a friend or two in the community after such an action and isn't that what a good citizen does, never mind a good police officer.
Andy wasn't happy and added "He (Jeremy Hunt) did not condemn the use of taxis, which is unacceptable but is
happening on his watch because ambulances are trapped at A&E, unable
to hand over patients". I can't condemn the use of taxis and neither should Andy and as you have read, I support their use when it is appropriate. He may have a point about ambulances being trapped but if he does then maybe he should ask questions with more humility. This problem has been going on even when he was the Secretary of State for Health, and I can think of quite a few bigger problems that he presided over.
Change the world.