I was sitting in my response car at the scene of a call. There was an ambulance behind me - the crew was in the back treating the patient, who'd felt faint but hadn't actually passed out. I was on the phone to a fellow paramedic when a man approached me and asked me to wind down my window, which I duly did (although these days I'm a little bit more cautious about doing so).
The following exchange then took place.
Man: "Sorry for interrupting but I pay for the NHS too, so can you tell me why there are so many ambulances parked on this road?" (I should remind you that there were two!)
He went on to ask, "Are you waiting for something?" to which I replied, "We are dealing with an emergency call"
Man: "Are you on stand-by?"
Me: "No sir, we are dealing with a patient. The crew in the ambulance is treating her right now".
Man: "And you are doing what?"
I have to admit I was mildly shocked at this question. I suppose being on the phone and not doing anything relevant to my role must have irked him in some way. I'm not really sure.
So I replied, "I am talking to a colleague on the phone while I wait for my colleagues to tell me what the results of their tests are".
I was waiting, as I normally do, for my colleagues to pass me the ECG. They were treating a young woman for near-faint, so an ECG is in order. However, I usually leave the ambulance to reduce the number of males present for this check. That way the young lady's dignity is preserved.
Man: "Oh, I apologise profusely".
He then staggered down the road. He had been drinking but he was not completely wasted on alcohol.
One of the crew from the ambulance appeared a few minutes later and I told her what had happened and she told me that a man had opened the back door of the ambulance just as they were covering the patient up. He looked in and asked them if they could spare a pound!
This stuff may seem funny but its not. The pigeon story says a lot about where we are heading and what is going wrong but nobody dares say it or hint at it for fear of being punished.
I had a conversation recently with someone about my own views on certain incidents that have taken place in the world and I got an extremely incendiary response. I found myself backing away from the subject simply because the other person couldn't hold another view or entertain the possibility that the 'popular' truth was not so. This is denial and it stems from fear.
We should be talking openly and honestly - as brutally as required - so that we can get to the bottom of our problems and solve them. We need not scapegoat people or organisations but we must dismantle this multi-layered approach to system preservation at all costs. If it doesn't work, own up and take it apart.
I am reminded so often of our condition when I watch Gordon Ramsay go head-to-head with a stubborn restaurant owner who is convinced his food is great when every single customer he has is telling him otherwise!
We have a problem and it is bigger than the NHS and the Government. It is human and it is devolving.