Staff speak out about pressure faced by alcohol

Frontline workers give their first hand experience

North East Ambulance Service teamed up with Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, earlier this year to highlight the impact faced by alcohol.

A survey carried out amongst paramedics revealed some shocking statistics - and whilst only paramedics were surveyed, their feedback highlighted issues faced by all our frontline staff.

We also spoke in more detail to a call handler, a paramedic, and a clinician.

Frazer Gregory

Frazer Gregory, aged 34, has been answering both 111 and 999 calls from across the region for the last seven years.

Balance Frazer Gregory

He said: “The main problem with alcohol is it prevents us from being there for people that need us.

"When we are doing a triage for someone who’s drunk, it takes a lot longer – you’re looking at double the length of a normal call.

“One guy used to call us drunk from a phone box . It would be hard for us to get any sense out of him and would have to send someone to him. All the ambulance crew could do was take him to A&E, he would spend a couple of hours there and within half an hour of getting discharged he was back on the phone to us.

“We are seeing drink related call during all shifts, all days of the week. Obviously it’s worse on Friday and Saturday nights and bank holidays but there very high percentages come in during the week with more chronic issues and these tend to be repeat callers.

“It’s frustrating for us and it’s frustrating for the road crews too.”

Nicola Harper

Nicola Harper, aged 32, has worked on the frontline at North East Ambulance Service for 11 years, seven as a paramedic.

“Alcohol is a major problem for us as a service," she said.

Balance - Nicola Harper"I would say half of the jobs, if not more, are alcohol related.

“You often think where else could I be, you’re rarely using your clinical skills – you can’t leave them because they’re not safe so you’re essentially a taxi service to A&E.

“It’s almost as if the people expect to be picked up, the young ones especially.

“For every job you go to you don’t know what you’re walking into and what’s going to happen.

“I went through quite a bad assault three years ago where I ended up in hospital. Because of that job – plus the fact I’m now a mum – I’m very careful now.

“The majority of patients are sick, and I’ve had people peeing and spitting in an ambulance. The vehicle’s then off the road while you go back to station to clean it, which probably takes an hour. Just one vehicle off the road impacts on other jobs.”

Alison McAree

Alison McAree, aged 37, has worked for North East Ambulance Service for 11 years. She spends the majority of her time in the Contact Centre at Headquarters working as an Emergency Clinician, and the rest of her time as a paramedic out on the road.Balance - Alison McAree

Alison says she has been assaulted four times in her career, most recently in 2014 by a frequent caller, who was subsequently charged with common assault and handed a suspended sentence.

“You’re definitely more at risk with an intoxicated patient because their inhibitions are lower and their ability to see right from wrong gets a bit clouded.

“It makes you more cautious and you’re on high alert all the time, it doesn’t go away. It affects you outside of the job as well, you re-think the episode over and over again asking whether you should have done something differently.

“It also affects how you treat other patients. If you’re on guard for your own personal safety, you don’t engage with your patients as well for fear that they will do the same.”

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