With memories of the freezing cold that I had endured last New Year’s Eve still prominent in my mind, I wore four layers of clothing in preparation for the evening ahead. We sat in on the briefing with a hundred or so other staff from the LAS and St John’s Ambulance which was followed by a hearty meal in the hospital canteen before splitting off and setting out for our various outposts within central London.
I had definitely pulled the long straw this year as I was working inside a treatment centre at Waterloo train station. We were situated in an enormous heated tent just outside the station on the concourse. We had 12 bays in all; ten of these were designated for simple ‘minor’ type cases and two were for the sickest patients. We had full resuscitation equipment in these two bays so we could handle just about anything that came our way.
I worked along with Martin the doctor who came out with me on the car and Basil from the LAS who I have worked New Years Eve with twice before. We had two police officers with us and some of our fantastic SJA colleagues to keep things ticking over nicely.
Boy were we busy; it started around eleven pm with four vomiting intoxicated young people and their rather more sensible less intoxicated friends, and then it really picked up after midnight – peaking at approximately three in the morning. As we had anticipated, all but one or two of our patients were either just plain drunk and cold, or drunk, injured and very cold. During the busiest periods every bay and chair was taken up; it was all hands to the deck.
Some of our patients had travelled long distances into the city and had become separated from their friends, meaning we had to scroll through their mobile telephones to find relatives and call them to come and collect the patient. One or two of the women looked more like a scantily clad member of Kiss than the glamorous people they were at the start of the night! One girl in particular had a dripping nose, smeared eyes like a panda from her mascara and a couple of bogies where she had wiped them up from her nose on to her eyebrows! Only a very loving relative indeed would want to take a vomit and urine soaked individual such as this home in their car!
Unfortunately it was impossible to see the midnight fireworks from where we were positioned so it didn’t feel all that festive until I popped my head out just after midnight and was delighted to find that it was snowing.
Although it was incredibly busy our patients were mostly a good natured bunch so we were in fine spirits and the time flew by. At about five in the morning after packing up the kit we returned to the hospital. Our group had gone separate ways at the start of the evening so we re-grouped at the debrief and then wearily headed back south to Croydon.
That night we dealt with approximately 35 patients in our centre. The figures for all the treatment centres combined, including the teams working out on foot showed that 350 patients were dealt with in all with only 49 needing further treatment in hospital. New Year’s Eve 2009 was the second busiest night for the London Ambulance Service after New Year’s Eve 1999, with 2,015 calls between midnight and 4am. There were 149 calls more this year between midnight and 4am compared to 2008.