For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Concern over growing use of police cars instead of ambulances
DYING patients are having to be ferried to hospital on the backseats of police cars because of a lack of ambulance cover, it was revealed last night.
Senior officers have voiced concerns that patrol cars are being used to move patients in “life or death” situations due to a shortage of ambulances caused by overworked accident and emergency departments.
The chairman of Cleveland Police Federation revealed that some police drivers have faced investigations into their actions after patients they carried to hospital died.
Ron Hogg, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “We are well aware where there are instances where officers have taken individuals to hospital and they have died.
“The situation is not satisfactory at all. Sometimes it can take our vehicles out of action for up to five hours. We are very concerned.”
His revelations followed the publication of a leaked log of incidents that shows growing concern among officers that they are becoming responsible for the lives of people who are sick or injured.
One log entry made by an officer in the region in April this year reports: “Good Friday weekend we were told [there] is a seven-hour waiting time for an ambulance so don’t call one as you won’t get one.”
Another entry from July says: “Ambulance control requested police attend a report of 14-year-old girl having taken an overdose. As there was no ambulance available the injured person had to be taken to hospital by police.”
In May, The Northern Echo revealed that patients waiting to be transferred from ambulances to hard-pressed hospital A&E departments had soared nearly nine-fold between 2010 and last year.
Mr Hogg, a former police officer with 30 years’ experience, said the issue was a growing concern.
He added: “It is all to do with waiting times at accident and emergency and the time it is taking to process patients.
“I have raised the issue – as have other PCCs – as an area of growing concern. The police have become the port of last resort.”
Last night, North Durham MP Kevan Jones said he would be taking up the issue with the hospital trust for County Durham.
He said: “This is clearly an unacceptable situation. If the root cause is problems in A&E, they need addressing.
“The police have got a tough enough job as it is without having to pick up a task which is not theirs and, in some cases, they are not qualified to deal with.”
Paul Brown, chairman of Cleveland Police Federation, said: “If someone happens to die in a police vehicle or after being taken to hospital, the duty of care falls onto the officer and an investigation is launched to find out what they did and why they did it.
“So really, we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.”
Andrew Ward, spokesman for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Our members are often left with the difficult dilemma of what to do when dealing with casualties who require more than emergency first aid treatment and may need immediate transport to hospital.”
No one from the North-East Ambulance Service was available for comment when contacted by The Northern Echo.
Councillor Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council scrutiny of health committee, said: “I would be very concerned to hear about police cars supplementing ambulances in North Yorkshire.
“As far as I’m aware, there are sufficent numbers of ambulances and paramedics.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Disappointingly, no one making these claims has presented us with the evidence to support them, so we are unable to verify whether they are accurate at this stage.
“But we know that more work needs to be done to make sure that patients have access to the urgent and emergency services that they need.”
Comments are closed on this article.