You may recall that my last post was about how I had to think very hard about where to take a young child after his fall from a window. While the resultant comments were very interesting, and demonstrate very clearly that, on occasions, these blog entries develop a life of their own, I wanted to be able to write a bit more about the new directions that trauma care in London are heading, and how it affects me and my colleagues.
There are now three Major Trauma Units in London, The Royal London, Kings and St Georges, with St Mary's Hospital coming on line some time soon. Now, for those of you who don't know, this leaves my patch quite isolated. My jouney time to the 'local' Major Trauma Unit could be as long as 45 minutes. That's a long time to have an unwell patient in the back of the ambulance. And yet, for a discussion about the pros and cons, read a little 'story.'
"He had fallen out of a window, onto the driveway. Another child, this one only 9 years old. This one was accidental - the boy had been trying to open the window because he was hot, and had fallen out when he succeeded. When I arrive on scene he is stable, but not responding appropriately. He is very agitated, and, despite his eyes being open, they are not fixating on anything or anyone. The back of his head reveals a large swelling. He needs urgent care, but where from? We are outside of the LAS (London Ambulance Service) territory, and this crew will go where I want them to. I'm a few minutes away from my own hospital, and yet we don't have neurosurgery on site. The nearest neurosurgical unit that deals with paediatrics is one of the Major Trauma Units, 45 minutes away. I am not happy to travel all that way with a child that I will have to intubate if we are going that far.
And another point to consider: I am currently on call for my A&E Department. I have a contractual duty to be available if I get called. If I commit to a 45 minute journey on Blues in the back of the ambulance, I will probably be unavailable for the job I am paid to do for 3 hours or so. I decide; we are going to my own hospital, 5 minutes away, with the child awake.
The journey is easy and uneventful. He is intubated soon after arrival, and we get him up to scan. Damn! He has a depressed skull fracture and some bleeding in his brain. Now he needs to be transferred. 2 hours after arriving at the A&E Department, he leaves for the neurosurgical centre, and arrives there almost 4 hours after his accident. If I had taken him, he would have arrived there an hour after his accident. 3 hours wasted."
This really has set me thinking about my role, and about how it interacts with my work in a very busy department. If I attend a job while I am on call, and take a patient to a Major Trauma Centre, then I run the risk of a disciplinary which could result in me losing my job. If I attend a job while I am on call, and take a patient to a hospital that is not a Major Trauma Centre, the patient is not going to get the best possible care.
It's more complicated: if it is an LAS crew, they will, if I am not there, take the patient to the Major Trauma Centre. Therefore, the patient will potentially be disadvantaged if I attend. If it's not an LAS crew, then they will go to the local hospital, even if I am not there. So, if I attend those, I can provide immediate care and take them to the local hospital, knowing that they have not been disadvantaged by my attending!!
So, I am now prepared. I won't go out on ANY jobs for LAS when I am on call, but will go to other calls. I am ready for the long haul: if I go to a job when I am not on call, I will make sure that I can get the patient all the way to the Royal London, and that's a long and scary way! Watch this space.