Ambulance staff in a bustling city like London face a huge array of high pressure scenarios every day - but how do they cope? Reporter HELOISE WOOD went on shift to find out.

"'IF I say run, run. That’s my biggest tip for tonight.’" And so my night with the London Ambulance Service begins.

I join crew members Jemma Martin and Natalie McLay for an evening shift on November 21, starting off in Bromley ambulance station, in Crown Lane, and finishing in Tooting eight hours later.

Jemma, who has been working with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) for 17 years, says: "We have to be detectives, lawyers and social workers all at once.

"The biggest part of our job is reassurance."

Natalie, who’s been doing it for 14 years, added: "When I see someone having a heart attack, I don’t see a person with a family, I see a job that has to be done, otherwise you couldn’t cope. We have to keep calm."

As soon as a call on the radio comes through with the details of the emergency, we're off and the blue lights and siren come on.

I'm in the back of the van and Jemma has to yell whenever there's a bump to warn me because we're going so fast.

She tells me I look a bit green at one point.

However, time is obviously crucial in this job - around 75 per cent of ambulances reach the most critical cases within eight minutes.

When I ask about the strangest jobs they've had to deal with, Natalie says: "There was one situation where a neighbour could hear a man in the flat above saying ‘Get off me, you b*****d’ and someone being thumped across the wall and then ‘I can’t take it any more.’

"She got emergency services to break down the door.

"It turned out the guy had just got a jumper stuck on his head."


4.05pm A man in Pratts Bottom says he’s been walking for hours with no shoes after being thrown out a car. We take him to the Princess Royal University Hospital, in Orpington.

6pm We go in New Addington where a man has collapsed. However he’s regained consciousness and doesn’t want to go to hospital. Staff reason with him but decide he has consent (capability to make the decision).

7.30pm We go to see a nine-month-old baby with a suspicious rash and take her to Croydon Hospital.

8.15pm We’re back in the same hospital an hour later with a 33-year-old man who’s been vomiting for five days.

9pm A diabetic in Wallington has gone into a hypo-state where his blood sugar level has gone too low. This is the most seriously ill patient I’ve seen all night. He doesn’t want to go to hospital. Ambulance staff say they will phone in two hours to check he’s OK.

10.45pm Police are concerned about a 37 year-old woman in Tooting who seems disorientated and confused. We take her into the nearby St George’s Hospital, in Blackshaw Road.