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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July 2005, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Ambulance blogger tells all
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Online

Tom Reynolds
'I am passionate about my job'
I've never met Tom Reynolds, yet I know more about this semi-anonymous London ambulance worker than I know about most of my own work colleagues.

I know he has spent most of his life in the city, lives in a 'terrible' block of flats, is 33 and Sagittarius, he has a brother and he once gutted fish for Sainsbury's.

He can juggle three balls, solve a Rubik's cube and can stand on his head.

He used to be able to down a bottle of vodka in a night, but now gets drunk after just two strong beers, doesn't smoke, do drugs or have unprotected sex.

Diary

I also know he is passionate about his job as an ambulance man. And for the last three years Tom, a blogger, has been sharing his diary online with thousands of other people.

Each day Tom, his nom-de-plume, can get up to 11,000 hits from people eager to read about day-to-day life in a London ambulance, his views on NHS reforms or his contempt for people who misuse the service.

I like the idea that other people are hearing me when I moan
Tom Reynolds

But what made him decide to bare his soul and invite the rest of the world into his life?

"I have always been interested in computers and I saw that people were writing blogs and I thought that I would have a go.

"Some people write a personal journal, but I like the idea that other people are hearing me when I moan.

"I never thought it would take-off, as I never thought I was a good enough writer.

"I just enjoy writing and talking to other bloggers and people who have used the ambulance service."

Calls

Tom mainly writes about his own experiences, what he calls his 'daily grind' and the patients he meets each day.

"I went to a little old lady who had fainted.

" She was an absolute darling (if only because she laughed at my 'you should take more water with your gin, if it makes you dizzy joke), but who didn't want to go to hospital because she cares for her disabled husband.

"They lived in a warden controlled flat, but the wardens in those places aren't supposed to do any 'caring' work.

"Our patient wouldn't go to hospital and leave her husband - so, falling back on my nursing experience, I got control to call the social services that look after that family.

I can go home and think that I have done a good job
Tom Reynolds

"After promising that everything would be fine, she agreed to go to hospital.

"Why did I go through control to contact the social workers, rather than phone them myself?

"Well, control record all the phone calls they make - so if someone promises to do something then we have the proof."

It is this sort of incident, along with his views on the 'manipulation' or not, of response times, protecting emergency workers and the future of the ambulance service that makes his blog just that bit more interesting.

"I love the ambulance service and I think it is the best job in the world. I work outside and I work helping people.

"Whether they are genuinely ill or not we are able to calm them down and get them the right treatment.

"At the end of the day I can go home and think that I have done a good job."

Confidentiality

One of the difficult things for Tom in his diary was maintaining the anonymity of his patients. His employers know he writes the log and it is monitored.

He said: "Basically I try not to give any identification, I do not give any locations, no names and no photos.

"I am constantly aware that my bosses are reading the website so I do have to moderate my language and make sure I am responsible for what I write.

"If I was more anonymous I could write indiscriminately with no fear of any come-back, but because I have this sense of responsibility I need to ensure that my pieces are a bit better researched."

His audience ranges from ambulance service users to fellow crew members, who will often chip in with their own comments on issues he has raised, such as his fears for the future of the ambulance service.

Tom says that because the public misuse the service it is stretched to breaking point, and people need to be taught about when an ambulance is necessary.

He claims 70% of ambulance call-outs are unnecessary, such as rapid response vehicles for people who are dizzy.

"We should also be able to tell people with a runny nose that they need tissues, not an A&E department."

We should also be able to tell people with a runny nose that they need tissues, not an A&E department
Tom Reynolds

But does he think his views and those expressed by his readers will help change anything?

"I have that dream that things will change, but I doubt it really. There are so many layers of management."




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