May 15, 2007


One of my great irritations with my job is the abuse we get from people when it comes to Ambulance transport. And G.P.s need to take some of the blame.

There is an old fashioned term used within the medical profession since the discovery of the telephone…”off legs!” 

This term, on the face of it, should refer to someone who is unable to make use of their legs. Someone who is unable to propel themselves forward in a bi-ped manner. A person who, either through sickness, trauma or poor mobility in general, cannot walk.

Unfortunately “off legs!” can, and is, frequently applied to persons who can mobilise, who can walk, and who sometimes are fitter than the crew calling for them! 

“Off legs!” is usually mentioned to Ambulance control when a G.P. is arranging for a patient to be admitted to a hospital ward. Therefore the Ambulance dispatcher will assign a crew to the detail which is 99% of the time as an urgent. (Low priority detail not requiring “Blues & Twos”.)

Recently I seem to have been assigned to many such calls which takes away a crew and emergency vehicle. As I said earlier if the patient is truly “off legs!” then no problem. But when we are being used as taxi service then that grates.

Typical example…called to a lady “off legs!” numbness in both legs, unable to walk!

On arrival at the address we are greeted by the family who show us into the house where we find our patient…walking from room to room collecting her things to take into hospital with her! Her legs appear to be in fine working order, both facing the right way, moving in a coordinated manner, transferring her body through space by using equal footfall therefore enabling her to get from point A to point B in good time!

She has been waiting for us to take her to hospital for three and a half hours (remember these are urgent not emergency details). Her family have a car so I ask if they are following? Usually if they are I ask them to take the patient…just so long as I am satisfied that the patient will not need any kind of interventions or monitoring by us.

On this occasion the family said that they could not take her as they had to be at work in two hours time! They could have taken her at least two hours earlier but the G.P. insisted on calling us!

As an Ambulance service we should be looking at some kind of payment for these jobs either by the G.P. or the patients family for unneccessary transport. That might stem the tide of calls we receive to take people to hospital who could get there easily themselves.

It is some kind of law of physics that states that:

“…every person who is off legs will live in a house with at least two cars on the drive!”