Police being used as ‘substitute ambulance service’ by | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/
Police chiefs say officers are being held back from tackling crime because they are being used as a “substitute ambulance service” to help “floundering” health services in Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has seen a huge increase in emergency calls this year.
And around two per cent of their core demand in Gloucester is tied up at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH) where officers are kept for “hours and hours”.
Detective Superintendent Steve Bean, head of public protection for Gloucestershire Constabulary, spoke of the challenges they face at a recent joint health overview and adult social care and communities scrutiny committee meeting.
“It’s only natural if other services are floundering a bit we act as a bit of a safety net and we’ve got absolutely no problem in doing that for a short term interim measure,” he said.
“But certainly that safety net is not something that should be relied on. And it certainly cant’ be guaranteed.
“When you look at the current situation, we don’t mind being called as a bit of a substitute ambulance service and we don’t mind taking people to A&E but only as a short term measure.
“It seems to have become a normalised process. We have officer time tied up doing that. Where we are needing to see an improvement is in that handover time. What should be a very slick Formula 1 type process is taking hours and hours.
“If our officers are tied up dealing with that kind of thing. What is it that they are not doing? Investigating crime is what they are not doing.”
Chief inspector Sarah Simmons said they are currently receiving more 999 calls than they would normally expect on any New Year’s Eve.
She said: “That is our current norm in terms of incident demand. Last year we would see on average 40 incidents to GRH. Currently we see about 75 a day. That’s 200 hours spent just at GRH.
“When you look at our busy area which is Gloucester two per cent of our core demand comes from GRH alone.
“While they are at the hospital supporting or handing over or conveying or taking over a patient who has been left, they are not then dealing with a victim of domestic violence or going to a serious public disorder.”
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Deborah Lee said she was happy to look into the issue and explore what could be done to find a solution.
“What I would ask Steve is that we work with you on the data. The reason we’ve made such progress on ambulances is because we are not managing by anecdote,” she said.
“We understand the data, by numbers to the minute. So if we could work with you to understand the data, the scale of the problem then I will commit to look at how we can do something that reflects common sense without skewing priorities in the department.”
Speaking after the meeting, committee chairman Andrew Gravells (C, Abbey) said he was concerned about the issue. He said: “Police vehicles, like ambulances, should be out on the roads not stuck in queues at the hospital while they wait for the person they’ve transported there to be admitted into the hospital.
“I was pleased that the commissioner was able to have a conversation with the hospital chiefs before he left the Shire Hall meeting.
“The issues around ambulances queuing up outside our hospitals to transfer their patients is something which the health scrutiny committee will continue to work closely on with our NHS colleagues in the county in order to monitor progress and see improvements.”
By Carmelo Garcia – Local Democracy Reporter
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