A day in the life of a Newham ambulance crew

A woman is treated in the ambulance.

A woman is treated in the ambulance. - Credit: Archant

Blood, guts and gore.

Mark with Emma and Gemma

Mark with Emma and Gemma - Credit: Archant

Gruelling 12-hour shifts through the day and night.

Even verbal and physical abuse.

Working for the London Ambulance Service is not a job for the faint-heated as I found out when I spent a day with paramedic Emma Ergur, 40, and medical technician Gemma White, 36.

Setting off from Newham Ambulance station, the first job of the day came through to the vehicle’s onboard system within minutes – a suspected stroke victim in East Ham.


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Met by a group of visibly-shaken relatives, the ladies transferred the gentleman into the ambulance and set off for the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel – one of eight hyper-acute stroke units across the capital.

After safely delivering him into the ward and briefing the team of specialists, it was back to the vehicle to tidy up for the next outing.

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Although a tough job at any time of the year, Gemma admitted it had been especially tough being apart from her daughter – now 10 – over the festive periods.

“It’s hard being away from her anytime of the year really, but it is particularly hard over the festive period,” she said.

“You get used to it and it’s one of the sacrifices of the job.

“It’s not a nine-til-five job but we all know that when we start – no-one’s ever sugarcoated it.”

Vehicle prepped, within seconds of flicking the switch a call came in about an 86-year-old woman who had fallen over and dislocated her shoulder yards in a Plaistow road.

Like many streets in the borough, the width of the road and the miles of parked cars meant we had to leave the vehicle in the middle of the road, but I was shocked to learn just how serious the issue is.

“Some people can get quite aggressive about it,” explained Emma.

“A colleague had someone come to a patient’s front door recently and threatened him with a knife – you just can’t reason with people like that.

“If your mum or gran had an emergency you wouldn’t want us taking ages to get to them by parking half a mile away. We have to park outside or people would die.

“It’s frustrating and also embarrassing when people are doing this in front of patients, but ultimately it actually slows the whole process down.”

But it’s not just verbal abuse, as Gemma revealed she had been hit, pushed and even spat at by members of the public.

“Some people think it’s ok to abuse ambulance staff but it’s not,” she added. “We’re not the police, we’re here to help.

“They just see the uniform and the flashing blue lights and assume we’re out to get them.”

Our next job took us to Barking where a man with a collapsed lung was in desperate need of an oxygen canister.

Sitting in the front I was enthralled by the unique experience of roaring through the rush-hour standstill of traffic on the A13 like Moses parting the Red Sea.

In fact such was the strain on this particular vehicle – one of the older models used by the service – we pulled up outside with smoke belching from the engine and oil trailing down the road.

After attending to the man and delivering a temporary canister then, we then had to wait for a back-up ambulance to get him to Newham University Hospital.

But despite the daily stresses, traumas and break-downs the one constant through the was the cheer and smiles across the faces of all the ambulance staff I met at the various hospitals we visited

“I love my job,” added Emma. “Everyday’s different and we get to meet new people and have the pleasure of helping them out.

“It can be pretty tough but the goodness outweighs the badness.

Gemma added: “There are plenty of occasions where we feel really proud of what we do, but delivering babies is always a pretty amazing experience.”

But with emergency service stretched over the winter weeks, LAS is urging people to think before dialling 999.

Anyone with a minor illness or injuries is advised to visit their GP or pharmacist, call 111 or make their own way to hospital and only call 999 in a genuine emergency.

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