The BAFTA award-winning documentary’s focus on ambulance crews in Greater Manchester draws to a close with the final episode airing on Thursday 11 July 2019.
It’s the start of a new shift in control, Laura is working on the helicopter dispatch desk today. She is responsible for deciding where to send the only doctor led resource in the region. Multiple 999 calls are received for a patient who has been struck by a car. Laura decides she must send Dr Oli and the air ambulance team to this category one incident. Unfortunately the helicopter is grounded by freezing conditions and the scene is 45 minutes away by car.
At the same time ambulance crew, Cassie and Ray are dispatched a patient who is short of breath. When they arrive they find the patient with her daughter who explains that she is suffering with a tumour and COPD. The crew fear that the patient may have sepsis, they know it should be treated with emergency antibiotics at hospital but it is also clear that the patient is nearing the end of her life. There is a dilemma about what is the best course of treatment. There is no clear plan in place for the patient’s end of life care.
While Cassie and Ray wait to consult with the patient’s GP, Ray comments on how death makes him feel: “It is human instinct isn’t it, survival, there is always something within us where we think ‘I need to fight that little bit more’. I think sometimes we do need reminding that dying is a natural part of life and in the line of that we do, we do see that fine line between life and death.”
Laura who is co-ordinating resources in control is visibly distressed to hear the news that the patient on scene with Dr Oli has been pronounced dead: “Life is very fragile and it could come to an end at any point for any number of reasons, it doesn’t take much. That little spark for life can be snuffed out in the blink of an eye by anything.”
Temperatures have plummeted across Greater Manchester and snow is beginning to cause problems for the team in control at the start of the next day shift. Advanced Paramedic Jon responds to an urgent call for a man who has spent the night in a van which doesn’t belong to him.
Rob is in charge of the helicopter dispatch desk today. He decides where to send Dr Matt who is the doctor on duty for the next twelve hours. Today’s freezing conditions have grounded the helicopter for a second day leaving them to respond by car. Their first call of the day is for a hanging and it isn’t long before Rob is forced to decide between other jobs that all need a doctor.
Meanwhile there is a flurry of 999 calls, crewmates Jenny and Ellis are dispatched to an 80-year-old patient who has fallen outside in the snow. Once they manage to settle the patient inside at home, the crew grow increasingly concerned about the condition of his wife and whether both are coping together at home.
Dr Matt is on scene with a patient who has had a cardiac arrest whilst at the gym. With the patient stable he makes the decision to leave the patient in the hands of the ambulance crews so that he is free for other patients. It isn’t long before this decision pays off and he is on his way to another cardiac arrest where Dr Matt’s clinical skills will be essential in giving the patient the best chance of survival.
The next patient of the shift for Jenny and Ellis is for a male who is intoxicated and believed to be homeless. The patient is struggling outside a shop in the cold, but once in the warmth of the ambulance and given some food he is able to talk about escaping his present life with Ellis. Before they head off to hospital, there is a knock on the ambulance door from a well-wisher and a bag full of handy supplies from the local shop is handed to the patient!
As the shift draws to a close it gives Dr Matt a chance to reflect on his role as a doctor in the service: “In an ideal world there would be one of us on every street corner, ready to spring to life when your worst day happens, but there’s not. We have to do the best with the resources we have got and try and get to the people who need us the most.”