Booze-fuelled celebrations often result in busy times for our ambulance crews

Boss went out with emergency crews armed with a video camera after an alarming series of attacks reported by staff over the festive period

THE booze-fuelled celebrations for Christmas and on New Year's Eve have often proved to be the busiest time of year for ambulance crews in South Cumbria.

An ambulance chief was so concerned about the safety of staff 20 years ago that he travelled with them on New Year's Eve in 1999 - armed with a video camera.

The Mail, on Tuesday, January 4 in 2000, noted: "Chief executive of Cumbria Ambulance Service Alan Donkersley spent the evening with paramedics after a series of attacks at Christmas.

"That led to fears for their safety on the busiest night of the year in towns like Barrow and Ulverston."

Mr Donkersley, a former paramedic, said: "There has been a marked rise in the number of attacks which is quite worrying.

"There seems to be a certain section that has no respect for ambulance paramedics."

He took both video and digital cameras to record any incidents but fortunately it proved to be a trouble-free shift - although it was a very busy one.

The article noted: "Between midnight on December 31 and 8am on January 1 crews answered 96 emergency calls, compared with 77 in the same period last year."

Mr Donkersley said: "Most of the calls were to people who had collapsed after drinking too much alcohol."

There were two new faces on emergency call outs 20 years ago.

The Mail, on Tuesday, December 21 in 1999, noted: "A former paratrooper has boosted the ranks of Barrow Ambulance Service by joining as a paramedic.

"Shaun Burke has just done his first full shift as a trainee after going through basic training."

A dozen applicants were after 12 county jobs, with Mr Burke being taken on in Barrow and David Higson in Ulverston.

The Mail, on Monday, October 2 in 1989, published the results of an eye-opening day spent by a reporter shadowing a shift by a Barrow ambulance crew.

The report looked at the work of Vehicle One, staffed by qualified ambulance officer Andrew Burton and trainee Barbara Mansergh.

Weekends were especially busy for the Barrow ambulance crews.

Mr Burton said: "Our record is 35 emergencies on one Saturday.

"And 95 per cent of those calls involve alcohol.

"We spend a lot of our time dealing with drunks.

"It's OK if they're unconscious but often they end up fighting in the back."

Mr Burton said: It's a very stressful job - many crews never make it to retirement.

"No day is typical. This morning, for example, we dealt with three emergencies. All involved people who collapsed at home.

"Later on we might have to deal with industrial accidents, or a woman in labour might need to be rushed to the maternity ward at Furness General Hospital.

"In fact we do get a fair numbers of births taking place in the ambulance.

"It's not the ideal place for it but from our point of view it's certainly nicer than most emergencies."

Attention to detail was important to the crews, particularly in keeping things clean.

The article noted: "The crews are constantly at risk from infection and wear protective clothing to cut down the risk.

Blue lights and the siren were not used on every emergency trip.

Mr Burton said: "Sometimes speed is important but if the patients are conscious they tend to panic when the sirens come on and they see we're going flat out. It makes them think their case is really bad.

"It is an important point because panic means faster heart beats.

"That's dangerous for patients with heart conditions, so we often deal with emergencies without using the siren."