Call the Fambulice!

Today, word reached the BBC that the UK police face another round of cuts post the next election. I’m surprised it has taken this long for it to be make the news as it has been common knowledge for some time.

Nevertheless, they decided to make it today’s lead story. For some reason only a former policing minister was brought out to speak on Radio 4. Not a current one – a former one.

The interview was notable for one main segment where the former minister explained how utterly wasteful it is for the three emergency services to turn up to the scene of road collisions in separate vehicles.

You can imagine it now “Well it is, of course, utterly unnecessary and unfair on the tax-payer. Completely excessive and wasteful and it’s been going on for years. And you’ve been paying for it.”

You can’t fault these guys can you tough on emergency vehicles – tough on the causes of emergency vehicles.

It seems that, high up in government, there might actually be a plan to fully integrate the three emergency services into one.

Much hilarity ensued on Twitter with this new all-singing, all-dancing integrated service being christened (in a moment of sheer genius) “The Fambulice” by @GemmaPettmanPR

Now, there may very well be some merit in some aspects of the Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance and Police coming together. Co-location seems to be very much a la mode. 

The danger with what the former minister suggested this morning is that it over-simplifies things. He has been brought out to speak on behalf of the government and the idea is so simple, so “strike me down obvious” that it makes the emergency services look like a bunch of profligate amateurs who have been getting it painfully and expensively wrong all this time.


There are a number of problems with the idea.

In another moment of genius – this future vision of a 3 in 1 Emergency vehicle was named “The Pombulengine” by @DafyddyGwasDrwg and so shall it be henceforth named.

Pic courtesy of @martinwoods

So let us begin by examining what sort of vehicle would be required.

3 emergency services are generally called to the scene of a road collision because they each bring expertise or powers which will assist the situation.

Much of this expertise requires the use of equipment be it a defibrillator, cutting gear, hoses, stretcher – whatever. None of these fit in a rucksack. A fair amount of kit can be brought to bear at the scene of an RTC and, depending on the number of casualties and vehicles – it may require more than one of each.

If it is as simple as a two car bump with minor injury then the chances are that the Fire and Rescue service won’t even be needed. Quite often an ambulance might not even be needed.

So you either have a situation where lots of big kit is needed or you have a situation where you don’t really need all emergency services.

A Ford Focus with a fire-extinguisher, a first aid kit and someone who can breathalyse the driver is, today, called a Police Car.

What if a patient needs to be transported to hospital? In the Pombulengine they could perhaps squeeze in the back with the paramedic whilst the fire-fighter rides shot gun up front. Or if you needed to transport them lying flat you could perhaps call what we, today, might call an ambulance.

In this situation you would have the Pombulengine AND an ambulance at the scene. Which kind of defeats the point.

So you’d need some kind of truck if you wanted it to contain everything you might need at the scene of a serious collision.

The theory of the Pombulengine works on the basis that all three of the emergency services would attend the RTC from the same starting point.

This shows a complete lack of understanding in how at least two of those services work.

The only service who habitually respond from base are the Fire Service. Chances are – if a police car or ambulance are sent to an RTC they will respond from wherever they are. Usually mobile somewhere. Should everyone drive back to a central point and jump into the Pombulengine?

The way around this, of course, is to have the Pombulengine – with its police officer, paramedic and fire-fighter – driving around waiting for a call.

I am struggling to think of any incident I have ever dealt with which has required the presence of ONE fire-fighter. When you need the fire service you generally need, at the very least, one vehicle with a full crew and all of its kit. That, today, is called a Fire Engine.

I fail to see the added value of having a vehicle with all three emergency service personnel in it when in most cases one, or possibly two of them will be twiddling their thumbs.

The solution to this is to train all three personnel in the others area of expertise.

Yes – fully trained paramedics who have all undergone and completed basic training with the Fire and Rescue service – with the powers of a Constable.

You can imagine how much training this would involve. And how much refresher training.

The former minister cited the use of this vehicle at an RTC. And that is because RTC’s a very easy to deal with.

Except they aren’t.

I have blogged about what and who is involved in dealing with an RTC before.

Generally, the Fire Service come and cut people out, put out fires, make things safe, deal with hazardous chemicals and so on. The paramedics admininster treatment from basic through to life saving. Police investigate, put on cordons, manage witnesses and sometimes use their legal powers to deal with errant drivers.

The example in the blog link above was a one vehicle RTC. The vehicle drove into a building at high speed killing the driver.

Three people – no matter how well trained – could not have managed that scene or dealt with that incident alone.

So really, the Pombulengine, is beginning to look like an extravagance. It would be too small to carry what was needed for a big incident and contain too much for something really trivial.

The former minister used RTC’s as an example of where all three emergency services could turn up together in one vehicle and save time and money (and it always seems to come down to money – not “three emergency service vehicles” but “three EXPENSIVE emergency service vehicles”).

To have such a vehicle with such limited used solely for deployment to RTC’s seems to completely defeat the object of cutting costs so there must be other uses for it.

No. No – I am still struggling to think of any incident I have ever been to where I have needed ONE fire-fighter.

I am genuinely unable to think of ANY scenario where this vehicle would have any practical purpose whatsoever.

It would be too small to comfortably convey patients to hospital.

It would only contain the most basic of kit. Most of which is already stored in a police car or ambulance fast response car.

It could not be self-sufficient much as ambulance response cars are rarely self-sufficient.

And then what happens when the RTC is finished with. What then? Chances are the various emergency services would need to go on to their next call and in different directions.

Except, in a Pombulengine, you can’t do this.

Do you go to the police job, the Ambulance job or the Fire job? What shall the other members of the crew do?

The emergency services do work together often. But they also work in isolation of one another. A lot. More often than not.

So it seems odd that in times of tightening budgets the former minister seems to think that a sensible cost saving measure (to reduce the number of expensive emergency service vehicles) is to have another expensive emergency service vehicle with such limited use.

But it was said with such authority that anyone who listened might have thought it to be a sensible idea.

Well – it isn’t a sensible idea.

I have filed it under “The Most Ridiculous Idea I Have Ever Heard.”




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One response to “Call the Fambulice!”

  1. Christopher Hearn says :

    Politicians of all parties would appear to think of the public as mere mushrooms. They keep us in the dark for as long as they can and when they do feed us it’s invariably only s#*t.

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