The Nation's Health + Policing

Ambulance Drivers

"Bunch of ambulance drivers, disrespected......again"

If you read my blog regularly, you will know my hatred for the term 'ambulance driver'. To me, it shows a total lack of respect for what we do and paints a picture of us as taxi drivers with a first aid kit. This is NOT what we are. Today, at the Police Federation of England and Wales' annual conference, Theresa May, whilst talking about the police's resourcing to mental health patients said:

'Police officers have many skills, but they are not in a position to be psychiatrists diagnosing and treating mental illness - nor are you meant to be social workers or ambulance drivers'.

This made my blood boil! Rather than the usual rant, laced with sarcasm, I decided to take a more pro-active approach. Here is my letter to the Right Honourable Theresa May, Member of Parliament for Maidenhead, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Dear Theresa May, MP
I am a front line Paramedic working in the UK and am writing to you in response to your comments at the Police Federation of England and Wales' annual conference. I'm confident in saying that what I'm about to say represents the feelings of my profession and the professional body that represents us.
In your address to the conference you said:
'Police officers have many skills, but they are not in a position to be psychiatrists diagnosing and treating mental illness - nor are you meant to be social workers or ambulance drivers.'
Your comments are extremely dismissive of our profession and suggests we are not skilled clinicians, but just mere drivers. You wouldn't address, or refer to police officers as police car drivers, and you wouldn't refer to fireman as fire engine drivers because that is not what their professions are. Similarly, you didn't happen by the position you find yourself in. No doubt you got there through years of education, campaigning and hard work. You are given a title and are addressed as such by the public and your peers. We expect the same courtesy.
Since 2005, qualified paramedics have had to complete a degree course at university or study to an equivalent level within an ambulance service. There are many exams, high pressured assessments and numerous clinical hospital placements. On top of this there is a significant amount of patient contact time and many hours of studying prior to qualifying. To gain the protected title of Paramedic we then have to register with the Health & Care Professionals Council (HCPC), to whom all of our actions are scrutinised. We are held accountable for all of our actions whilst at work and when off duty.
Not only are there paramedics on ambulances, but there are Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) all of whom have undergone significant training. We may all drive ambulances, but we are much more than 'ambulance drivers'. Just like there are many roles within the police force, in the ambulance service we have Emergency Care Practitioners, Critical Care Paramedics, Paramedic Practitioners and Consultant Paramedics. To bunch as all under the umbrella the generic term 'driver' is extremely insulting to say the least.
Our professional body, The College of Paramedics, has been working tirelessly to get our profession the recognition it deserves, and I feel that your flippant words undermine our credibility, not only in the media who report and quote the words you say, but to the country as whole. We have long been fighting the stigma of being labeled 'little more than professional drivers' by Kenneth Clark in 1990 and yet 23 years on, it seems the governments view of us has changed very little.
I would appreciate it, if you would recognise that we are infact medical professionals, in the same you you would credit doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, surgeons, radiographers by their profession.
Yours sincerely,
Ella Shaw
Thoughts on a postcard please peeps! Am I over reacting? Do I need to just get over it? Do we deserve more respect from people like Theresa May? Will I get a decent reply? So many questions, answer what you can!

My good friend Inspector Michael Brown, author of Mental Health Cop (@MentalHealthCop) has also shared his thoughts on the same subject. Interesting to see some parity across the 999 family. Go and have a read of his 'Ambulance Drivers'.

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