Date published: 29 June 2023

Ambulance crew George Lane and Dave Clarke are polar opposites when it comes to pre-work routines.

George prefers to get up a couple of hours before he’s due at work to give himself time to eat breakfast, get dressed, have cuddles with his dog Dizzy, and arrive at work with half an hour in hand to make coffee and check the ambulance over.

Dave prefers to get up an hour before his shift starts and rarely has breakfast. 

But they both agree on one thing - once they arrive at work, no day is ever the same. 

George, 27, joined the ambulance service a year ago as Ambulance Support Crew after several years working as a hospital clinical aid. And before that he was actually a dog groomer.George Lane standing in front of our ambulance. He has brown curly hair and is wearing glasses. He is in his full green ambulance uniiform.

He says: “I treat everyone as if they were one of my loved ones - with the respect they deserve.

“Sometimes this means making them a cup of tea and some breakfast so they can take their medication. Sometimes it’s reassuring someone that they are going to be okay.

“And sometimes it’s being the one by someone’s side as they take their last breath.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to do this job so when I put my uniform on, I wear it with pride.”

Today, George is working alongside Dave, an ambulance technician based at Goodwood Ambulance Station in Leicester.

Dave Clarke standing in the back of the ambulance holding a cable. He has straight blonde hair and blue eyes. He is wearing his full ambulance uniform.Dave was a supermarket manager at Waitrose until 2020, when the opportunity to have a career change came about through the ambulance service recruiting for technician roles. This was a role he wanted to do since a customer slipping on some cooking oil peaked an interest in helping others following a first aid course.

The 35-year-old from Kibworth said: “I loved being able to use my first aid skills, and that led me to volunteer for St John Ambulance, including as part of their cycle response scheme in Derby and Nottingham. 

“Eventually this led me to apply to be a trainee technician at EMAS, and I’m now fully qualified as a Technician and mentor my newer colleagues joining the service.”

Having checked the ambulance to make sure we have all the equipment we need for the 12-hour shift, our first callout flashes up on the screen in the ambulance cab: a Category 3 call for a 83-year-old woman who has fallen at home in the Leicestershire countryside. 

The door is open when we arrive, and we squeeze past some boxes of cat food to find the patient on her sofa and clearly in discomfort.

George and Dave are full of compassion, carrying out their observations and gently coaxing what’s happened out of her while one of her cats eyes us suspiciously from outside the living room window.

It quickly transpires that the fall had actually happened four days before and this lady had been struggling to manage the pain over the weekend, sleeping on the sofa and relying on her neighbours for help. 

While Dave calls the patient’s GP to see if they can prescribe some stronger painkillers, George makes her a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge to enable her to take her medication.

Prescription secured, medication taken and the patient’s daughter on her way, we say goodbye and head back to the ambulance. 

Almost immediately the next call comes through - a patient in his 80s has fallen out of his bed in a care home and needs transporting to hospital for a scan. He howls in pain as George and Dave slide him onto a stretcher as carefully as possible, and George takes extra care to drive smoothly on the journey to Leicester Royal Infirmary. 

We hand over our elderly patient, the crew fill in a safeguarding referral, and George presses the button to make us available to the 999-control room again. 

This time a few minutes pass before the alarm sounds on the screen and their radios call a couple of long beeps to alert us to the next emergency patient. This time it’s a woman in her 70s experiencing heart palpitations and chest pains at a GP surgery - a Category 2 call. The crew receive a handover from the GP and whisk the patient off to Glenfield Hospital for further investigations. 

The next call is different, and the mood in the ambulance cab changes as soon as George and Dave read the screen. It’s a category 1 call for a three-year-old boy struggling to breathe. There is no chatting on the way this time and we set off a speed camera as we whizz past.

A doctor’s car is already outside the house when we arrive - the Physician Response Unit which works in partnership with EMAS. Thankfully the youngster is stable and we provide transport for him and one of the doctors to the Children’s Emergency Department at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

It’s not until 2pm that we return to the ambulance station for our 45-minute lunch break, and we enjoy our pack ups in the sunshine and talk about the best, and most difficult, parts of the job.

Dave says: “I’m not going to lie, the best bit about the job is driving on blue lights. It’s great getting to carve through traffic and go through red lights. 

“While the hardest thing we do is tell someone that their family member has died. It’s even harder when the patient is a younger person. Thankfully it’s not that often, but when you do you’ve got to do the best you can for that family.”

George also reiterates the importance of having the conversations with loved ones about what they would want to happen if they were seriously injured or at the end of their life, and then putting the right documentation in place – such as a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation document or a RESPECT form.

He says: “The ReSPECT form creates a personalised recommendation for your clinical care in emergency situations, for example in the event of a cardiac arrest or a stroke, where it may be difficult for someone to be able to inform us of their decisions or express their wishes.”

Once we’ve called clear to control again, a job appears on the screen almost immediately - we’ve been called to a Category 2 patient at the Urgent Treatment Centre in Loughborough. 

When we arrive, the young woman explains that she suspected she had a chest infection for the last couple of weeks but had begun vomiting over recent days and unable to keep anything down.

She’d struggled to get through to her GP so visited NHS111 online who had booked her the walk-in appointment, and then they had rung for an ambulance when they realised her body temperature was pushing 40 degrees Celsius and she was displaying classic signs of red flag sepsis. 

Apologising to our patient, Dave ramps up the air conditioning in the back of the ambulance, explaining he has to be ‘cruel to be kind’ as she has a fever despite already feeling cold. This is a life-threatening emergency so while the patient finishes eating a tube of glucose to treat her low blood sugar, Dave calls the red phone in Resus at LRI to pre-alert them, and we blue-light our patient to the Emergency Department. 

On the way George explains that sepsis is so dangerous because people can decline very quickly, especially younger patients, so the sooner they can be at hospital and receiving IV antibiotics, the better their chance of making a full recovery. 

Our final call of the day is to a patient with complex health needs who has run out of prescription medication and is concerned that she will not be able to obtain anymore as she has fled from her home elsewhere.

Despite a noisy and challenging scene, both crew members remain patient and compassionate, doing all they can to resolve this lady’s issues and make sure she has the medication she needs to keep her well.

However, as the patient is also suffering from chest pains, she agrees with the crew to travel to the hospital for further observation. As she is able to mobilise herself and doesn’t require a stretcher, the crew take her to the main waiting room and are quickly called through to one of the rooms to provide a handover.

Most ambulance crew shifts last 12 hours but can often run over if there is a life-threatening emergency or they need to spend additional time supporting a patient to get the right care that they need. 

The pair inform the 999-control room via radio that they are logging off for the day, and Dave waves a cheery goodbye as he heads home in time to put his own three-year-old son to bed.