Five SOS tactics if you can’t get an ambulance

Five SOS tactics if you can’t get an ambulance

With ambulance response times now stretching further and further into hours and hours, each day seems to bring another horror story. At the end of December, A 93-year-old woman with a broken hip was left lying on the floor waiting for an ambulance for 25 hours.; the news is increasingly full of injuries or people with life-threatening heart conditions that have gone untreated for far too long.

A combination of pressures – covid, flu and strep A – means that a dozen ambulance services and health trusts have declared critical incidents in recent days. The College of Paramedics warns of “very many cases” of patients who die while waiting for emergency transport to the hospital.

So what should you do if the worst happens to you or a family member? If you call 999 and they tell you that the wait could be several hours? Aside from emphasizing to the call manager the seriousness of the situation and the urgency with which he needs help?

First, if you can get to the hospital by car or taxi, do so (although don’t drive yourself if you have a health emergency). “You may be sent to the back of the A&E queue, but at least you are in a place where someone qualified can do an assessment,” says Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Exeter.

If this isn’t possible, here are some tips for five different health scenarios:

A fall

If someone has a fall, it is commonly assumed that you should not move them while waiting for an ambulance, in case things get worse. In most cases this is wrong, says Dr. Pankhania. “It’s really important to be aware that if you can move, move. And if the patient can move with a little help, help them to do it, ”he says. It is, he warns, counterproductive to say “if you’ve fallen, now stay there”: this can lead to reduced blood flow to the area where you’re lying or sitting, which in turn can lead to pressure sores, the tissues. or even blood clots.

Move, or help the patient to move, to a comfortable position or comfortable chair. “The most common falls result in a broken hip or wrist, or nothing broken but everything hurts,” he says. “Lying on the floor is not going to help those injuries at all.” The exception is if you fear that you, or a loved one, may have a spinal cord injury. “There are certain circumstances in which you shouldn’t move because you need to stabilize your head or neck,” says Dr. Pankhania, who advises doing a common-sense assessment of where the trauma is. If it’s on a wrist, arm, or leg, there’s no reason to lie on your stomach and be uncomfortable.

chest pain/heart attack

If you’re alone and don’t have someone to drive you to the hospital, call a friend, family member, or neighbor and let them know, advises Dr. Pankhania. She recommends leaving the door open, if you can, so when someone arrives they can easily reach you and you don’t have to force your way in if you can’t walk to the door.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) advises that if you think you are having a heart attack, you should call 999, then sit back and keep calm while you wait for the paramedics. The charity also recommends taking a 300mg aspirin if you have one within reach.

A defibrillator can be used when someone is in cardiac arrest. You can check in advance where your nearest is on the BHF website; otherwise, if you call 999, the operator can tell you if there is a publicly accessible defibrillator nearby. But, says the charity, if you’re alone with a person in cardiac arrest, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be performed first., and you should not interrupt him to go get a defibrillator. If possible, send someone else to find one.

breathing difficulties

Staying calm can also help here. “Often, for example, with an acute and severe asthma attack, panic sets in,” says Dr. Pankhania. “Maintaining your composure often stops the release of the chemicals that cause bronchial spasm. So it’s very important to stay calm because if you stay calm, less of these nasty chemicals are released and you can keep bronchial constriction at bay.”

Saint John Ambulance advises that if someone is having an asthma attack, reassure them and ask them to take their usual dose of their reliever inhaler. Ask them to take slow, deep breaths. The patient should also be sitting in a comfortable position and should puff the inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds, until 10 puffs have been taken. “Monitor your breathing and level of response. If the ambulance does not arrive in 15 minutes, repeat the process with the inhaler,” says the first aid association. “If they stop responding at any point, be prepared to give CPR.


Signs of a stroke include drooping of the patient’s face to one side, the inability to raise both arms and hold them in the air, and slurred speech. If you suspect that you or someone else has had a stroke and it’s not possible to get to the hospital right away, Dr. Pankhania suggests taking an aspirin in the meantime, as long as you’re not allergic to the drug and it doesn’t cause more. bleeding.

“A stroke is usually a clot in the brain, he says. “You can take aspirin to prevent the blood from clotting further. It’s not going to prevent a clot that’s already occurred, but if you’ve taken aspirin, it makes the blood less sticky, so it can prevent the clot from getting bigger.”

Broken bone

As with a fall, the suspicion of a broken bone does not necessarily guarantee that you will be left in the same position for hours on end. “If, for example, your knee joint is at an odd angle, it’s much better to put it where it normally is than to say, ‘I don’t dare touch this,’ says Dr. Pankhania.

If someone suspects they have a broken arm, they can make a homemade sling out of a towel, he suggests. Or if he’s alone with his broken arm, you can at least prop it up in a chair, for example, and make yourself comfortable.

Dr Lynn Thomas, Medical Director at St John Ambulance, says: “The best way to protect your family from a health emergency is by learning simple first aid… Speed ​​is of the essence in most situations and tackling a injury or a health risk as soon as possible. however you can, you can help your recovery or even save a life.”

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