Emergencies in Bristol – How Do You Help? Have you ever read a news story about how a person drops dead in the middle of a busy street and everyone ignores them? You wonder how on earth a person could collapse in the middle of a crowded high street and nobody intervenes with help.
Living in St Jude’s you are faced with these kind of situations on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times. You literally have to analyse each situation and decide whether to stop and help, call emergency services or continue walking.
Why wouldn’t you stop and help immediately you may wonder. What people who don’t live locally won’t realise is that if you did, you would be dialling 999 every half an hour for what is fairly ‘normal’. People with alcohol or drug addictions do go overboard and sleep it off on the pavement. Sometimes it’s the middle of the afternoon. Other times, it’s 7am and it’s clear they’ve been on the pavement all night in a T Shirt.
Before dashing into a situation to help it’s really important to risk assess your own safety. From experience, it’s hard to put people in the recovery position when you see needles hanging out of pockets and you have your own children with you.
But it’s a bit alarming when it gets to the point that the emergency services won’t even bother helping.
Walking down Wade Street late one evening last week, in the gloom of the night, I just made out a body slumped across the pavement. There was no one else around, I was on my own and it’s Asbo street.
For context, police cars are on this road very regularly. Trinity Road Police Station is just around the corner. It’s a link road between the end of the M32, St Paul’s and Old Market. You can see their blue disco lights dancing across the walls every ten minutes some Saturdays.
The man has probably drank himself to sleep. But there’s always a chance that he’s not OK. Some men have walked along the road, glanced in his direction and carried on. There’s a gaggle of women leaving the local pub who also appear not to care. I don’t feel like getting a punch in the face for my troubles.
It’s not an emergency and yet it is. I called the non-emergency 101 police line to get the crappiest attitude from the call handler. It’s funny how when it comes to 9am, the police are out in force moving homeless people out of doorways in town. Seeing them off and away least it damages the eyes and feelings of shoppers. Yet, here is a man on the pavement who could be dead, could be drunk and they give attitude. Perhaps if I had dragged his body into the doorway of a block of flats, they would have come around straight away to arrest him.
The nature of the police in central Bristol has changed. It does not feel like they are there for the community. As difficult as the behaviour is of people who call shop doorways and Wade Street pavement home, they are still people and sometimes need help from the emergency services.
During my failed attempt to help from a safe distance, a man appears and calls for an ambulance, two of which arrive in minutes.
But in all honesty, the police sucked that night. They wouldn’t have been going out of their way to have stopped for one minute, not on Wade Street where they feel like a permanent fixture. In fact, a visiting friend asked if there was an emergency services station on the road because they are on a call out here so often.
There needs to be an in between response in Central Bristol. Somewhere between paramedics and somewhere between police. As a paramedic, it must be incredibly hard to arrive at a job knowing there’s a good chance you are going to be dealing with someone who through illness or addiction can be difficult or volatile. That’s not to say that all homeless people are struggling with addiction. But it is a St Jude’s problem and if the police won’t step in to help, it’s difficult to judge others from being scared to do the same.
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