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The Datix System

(A conversation between two old chestnuts)



“Did you fill out a Datix when you fell over on that job last night?” asked Fred as he gazed at the clock, counting down the seconds before meal break.

“Of course I did” replied George, “you saw me struggling with the keyboard, and you know I can’t type very fast”.

It never ceased to amaze Fred how George always seemed to make a mountain out of a mole hill. “Did you give them all the info’ that we agreed on?”

“Of course I did” retorted George “ but there are so many falling down options that it leaves very little space for anything else to be added”.

“Drop Down Boxes” said Fred. “Drop down what?” asked George, cranking his neck at his mate while still managing to get the lid of his butty box opened.

“They’re called Drop Down Boxes” replied Fred “and they are meant to make it easier to complete the report, but there is other info’

that you can add further down the list”.

“Why should I want to add further info?” enquired George “after all, you said the form was created to make it easier for us to fill it out”.

Fred could see that this was not going to be an easy-explain so he tried to paint a picture for George. “When we were on that last job, George,

there was only me and thee that could see what we couldn’t see, if you see what I mean”… but George was lost.

“It was only us that can say what the day was like, or rather how dark it was, cos’ there was no street lighting,

it had been raining earlier and then the bitter bind came along with the blooming chill from the north which caused the ice which you slipped over on,

landing in the country pancake. Do you not get my drift?”

“So are you saying I should have included how light or dark it was; was it dry, wet, muddy ice or snow?” George had not yet started on his bacon buttie.

“That’s right” commented Fred “we need to give a bit more info so that they can get a better picture when they investigate why you came back to base smelling

like a dung heap and why you fell into one in the first place”.

Fred was getting into his stride now;” We need to let them know if the street lights were working, was there heavy traffic, unlit roads or pathways,

if it was near the start or finish of the shift, were we soaking wet from the rain or sweltering in the heat. We need to paint the picture so they can better understand the circumstances which may have contributed to the incident”.

“Gotcha” said George, picking the bacon from between his last two remaining teeth “You fill out the next one and I’ll watch how you do it”.

Post Bag – February 2016

The anticipated blizzards did not materialise but strong winds still managed to cause damage across the region. With more strong winds expected it is an opportune moment to remind ourselves about wind shear and air compression. Gusting winds have a nasty habit of hitting the sides of “slab sided” vehicles with devastating  effect, often rolling the vehicle onto its side or causing the driver to compensate at the very moment that the wind drops, causing an uncontested response by the vehicle.

Ensuring that the vehicle is in roadworthy condition at the start of the shift gives the driver the upper hand, and this means ensuring that the tyres are of the correct pressure, there is sufficient tread depth to clear rainwater away and grip the road surface, the wheel nuts are correctly tightened and if tell-tale markers are fitted that they all face the right direction.  

  The VDI is a crucial part of the shift and without going into what the VDI contains, sufficient to say that visually the vehicle should look right; no exterior damage, not leaning to one side or down on one side due to faulty suspension and no sign of any fluid leaks underneath. Once the VDI has been completed there is still the Pre Driving Checks and if you were the last person to drive the vehicle yesterday or last night and it has not been driven since, then the PDC can be shortened to checking the handbrake, neutral gear position and seat belt / door checks and that when the engine is started all the instruments and warnings behave as expected. If you were the last to drive it, the seat position, steering wheel adjustment and mirrors should be as you left them.

To ensure an audit trail can be established in the case of vehicular failure, the VDI checklist should be completed and retained locally. Different bases and depot might develop their own system of storing the completed VDI forms, but for any system to work, it relies upon the VDI checklist being used and completed.

The annual election of workplace representatives has resulted in several new stewards and safety representatives being elected, as well as existing ones being re-elected and we wish them all every success in their new ventures.  If you are not yet able to commit to becoming a Unison rep but would like to assist, you could offer to become a workplace contact.  Without having to commit to any union activity you could be the person at your base station to whom notices and posters etc are sent so that your colleagues can be kept up to date.  Interested? Contact a Unison representative for more information.

 CHAIRGATEThe long standing issue about seating at the Lowestoft (North) response postshould finally reach closure now that the replacement armchairs have been ordered.  The chairs which were selected were viewed on line by some members of staff and they agreed with management and Unison that they appear to meet the IPC requirements as well as providing comfortable seating for staff sent there on standby. 

 Bearing in mind the current climate with regard to personal safety and security we are reminding all staff about the need to be vigilant at all times. If someone you do not know or recognise requires access to your place of work, ask them for some form of identification before allowing them to enter the building or providing them with any information about personnel within the building.  Any visitor with a genuine reason for gaining access should not feel offended. Remember to close windows and doors when you leave buildings. 

The emergency ambulance stretchers are provided with 4-point shoulder harnesses which should be used in conjunction with the other straps when conveying patients. This is to ensure the patient is safely secured to the trolley in the event of sudden braking or manoeuvring. Members of staff are reminded that the harnesses form part of the stretcher safety equipment and if the harnesses are not present when you carry out the VDI your supervisor or manager should be informed so that replacements can be sourced.

 Ensuring that ambulance crews are stood down for their meal break is a high priority and providing facilities at which crews can be sent to for their meals, goes hand in hand. However, it is acknowledged that some crews prefer to obtain a fresh or hot meal on the way to their meal break facility. We are currently working with management to reach a resolution that is acceptable to road staff and EOC without extending the out of service (OOS) period excessively.  

 Fire Safety survey will soon be available which will invite your input regarding the fire safety at your workplace.  

A survey inviting your feedback about the Ferno Track2 Carry Chair will follow on after the Fire Safety survey.


Jeff Pittman

9 February 2016


Drive to Arrive Safely

It has long been quoted that it is only when we have “passed” the driving test, that we really begin to learn how to drive, how to prepare ourselves for the journey and how to anticipate when situations along the journey may require us to take remedial or corrective action. After many months of studying the Highway Code and practising the essential manoeuvers, the


The Bucket Overfloweth

The ambulance service is experiencing a constantly high level of calls via the 999 system on a daily basis (except it would seem on the days of action by the Junior Doctors) and we only have a finite number of crews and vehicles. 

This situation is similar to the “stress bucket” model which is referred to in acute mental health services; the water pours into the bucket (calls coming in via 999) until the water overflows (the calls back up) with undesired consequences.  The recognised solution is for the “bucket” to be fitted with a stress relieving tap through which the water level can be reduced to prevent over flow taking place.

With regard to the high volume of calls coming in

Use of audible warnings by ambulance crews

The Driver Training Advisory Group (DTAG) make reference to the use of audible warnings in the current edition of the UK Ambulance Services Emergency Response Driver’s Handbook, as does the Police Federation Roadcraft, The Police Driver’s Handbook.

The use of emergency warning equipment is primarily used to:

1. Provide advance warning to other road users
2. Help you progress through traffic

Most other road users, on hearing the warning of an approaching emergency vehicle will try to give way, but the use of the warning equipment does not give you protection or right of way. You may take advantage if other road users and pedestrians give way to you, but only if it is safe to do so. Bear in mind that unwarranted use of emergency warning equipment can undermine its value.

Never assume that your warning will be seen or heard by other road users.


Most ambulances are fitted with electronic sirens that have the benefit of alerting people to the presence of an ambulance before they are able to see it.

Drivers of emergency vehicles have a duty to warn other road users of their presence and their intentions, by exposing to those who might benefit, any visual or audible warning equipment fitted to the vehicle. This should be balanced against the occasions when it offers more protection to deactivate audible warning equipment, for example when in stationary traffic, to replace intimidation with invitation. You should be aware that if you have emergency warning equipment fitted to a vehicle, the public have the right to receive the warning the equipment is designed to give.

You should assess when and where to activate your emergency equipment and in normal circumstances you should activate your emergency lights before using your sirens. Think carefully before activating your sirens if you are close to other road users, particularly cyclists, pedestrians or animals. If, in the light of your risk assessment, you decide not to use your emergency warning equipment (silent approach) take extra care because other road users may be less aware of your vehicle’s presence.

When using sirens, it is often not the noise but a change in noise that gets a reaction. It’s appropriate to use a long tone between hazards, but changing to a short tone on the approach to the hazard is likely to maximise the benefit of the warning.

Consider switching off the sirens in stationary traffic. This often takes the tension out of the situation and gives other road users time to consider what they might do to help. Sirens must be used intelligently in stationary traffic when there is the risk of threatening or forcing other vehicles to commit to a potentially serious manoeuver that they may not have committed in the absence of the emergency vehicle. In this case deactivation of the sirens must be considered.

If you believe that the vehicle in front may not have heard the siren, changing the tone may gain their attention.If you are travelling along a dual carriageway and making good progress you may risk assess that the sirens can be deactivated. However, if you are on windy roads you may risk assess the need to use your sirens to alert people who may be out of your vision.


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