In Conversation with Paramedic Jon Wroath-Bailey
We spoke to paramedic Jon Wroath-Bailey who joined the Kingston CRU earlier this year.
Why is a cycling response unit suited to Kingston?
The idea behind it was to reach patients in difficult to reach areas that were difficult for motor vehicles to access. Kingston’s quite heavily pedestrianised with lots of one way streets and it’s actually quite difficult for motor vehicles to easily access quickly certain areas of the town centre; so the idea being is that you have a bicycle in Kingston town centre and we can very quickly get to any part of the town centre and provide initial treatment and assessment for patients who fall ill in that area until an ambulance can arrive if they’re required at all. I think cycling is definitely a really, really quick convenient way to get around Kingston, especially for our purposes. It allows us to utilise short cuts and cut throughs and cycle paths to reach patients in a really rapid fashion and start delivering treatment as quickly as possible.
What do you keep in your panniers?
So we carry a massive array of equipment on the bicycles. We have kit to manage pretty much everything you can think of - cardiac arrests, we can deliver babies; we’ve got maternity kits, we’ve got airway management stuff, cannulas, a whole range of drugs. We have trauma kits as well, to deal with all manner of trauma from accidents: shootings, stabbings assaults, car accidents, anything you can think of. We essentially carry almost all the same kit as an ambulance except they’re mini-versions of them so they all fit on the bike. Fully loaded, I believe it’s about 50 to 60 kilograms once fully laden. Our role isn’t just to work out if an ambulance is needed, our role is to get assessment and treatment rapidly to people in areas that are difficult to access by motor vehicle – so your typical road ambulances or response cars we have and we’re fully qualified paramedics. We’re able to give quite high levels of treatment and assessment to our patients who need us.
What’s a typical day, where do you go to first and what happens?
So a typical day - we are based at New Malden ambulance station , though we start our day there we check our kit, sign all our drugs out and then we’ll cycle from New Malden ambulance station down into Kingston town centre and there is a church there called the Everyday Church, its very central, we’ve built a relationship with over the years and they very kindly allow us to use it as a standby point, so we are usually based in the church if we aren’t on a call awaiting a call and that puts us in a really central location in Kingston and allows us to get everywhere in the Kingston area very very rapidly. So what we tend to do, we cycle down in the morning, set ourselves up and then we await calls. So we are sent to all categorisations of calls, anything from the very low acuity to the very worst acuity. We typically do between three to five calls a day on a sort of average day, on a busy day we can top almost eight, nine, ten. We go to pretty much anything you can imagine. Anything from minor cuts, scrapes and falls to cardiac arrests and severe difficulty in breathing, chest pains, heart attacks, seizures, accidents, traumas, assaults, anything you can really think of really. We’ll go to it. We have two main types of shifts: we have what we call the ‘early turn’ which is from 7am to 7pm and we have the ‘late turn’ which is from 10am to 10pm, so the latest we will operate in Kingston is til 10 in the evening and after that it’ll be your standard ambulance response that you’ll receive in Kingston town centre.
Kingston gets very crowded on a Saturday, are people good about getting out your way?
So when we do our training for this, we do quite intensive training, and a lot of that is focused around slow speed manoeuvres- safely moving in between crowded areas of pedestrians, so we have to have to have quite a high standard of cycling skill anyway, so we are trained to go in between crowds at varying different speeds as long as it’s safe to do so. So it’s not too bad, even when it’s quite busy we can still manage to negotiate our way quite quickly I think.
Why did you personally decide to join the CRU?
I’m a very keen cyclist - it’s part of the reason I chose to join the team here in the cycle response unit in London Ambulance Service. It was actually part of one of the factors I applied to London in the first place… with the intention of trying to get on this team eventually, so I’m very happy where I am at the moment.