A deepening crisis in NHS ambulance services has seen armed cops sent to respond to patients suffering from heart attacks, according to a police chief.
The shocking revelation by Andy Cooke, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, came as reports continued to emerge across the country of paramedic shortages and delays in response times.
He claimed that the measure – usually only employed as a “last resort” in the most serious of cases – is now occurring more regularly as desperately stretched ambulance services plead with police to provide emergency personnel.
Many armed response vehicles (ARVs) are equipped with defibrillators, with firearms officers also trained in first aid.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Cooke said: ““Recently, officers in armed response vehicles were being sent to reports of people who were having cardiac arrests because the ambulance service couldn’t cope with the demand, because they’re trained in first aid and to use defibrillators.
“Being first, last and only resort, the police will go. It’s right that they did go but that hides the problems we’ve got in the rest of the system.”
A police officer speaking anonymously to the paper meanwhile claimed they saw messages from emergency services staff “every day” asking for ARVs to be sent to victims of cardiac arrest.
They even recalled one incident involving a patient who was terminally ill, and worried that people calling for an ambulance in times of distress would see “police with guns turn up.”
New health secretary Steve Barclay meanwhile admitted over the weekend that “a sprint” would be required across government to avoid the NHS plunging into a major crisis this winter, as seasonal flu combines with ongoing issues caused by the Covid pandemic.
The former Brexit department minister told The Telegraph: “We have very real challenges coming down the track in the autumn and winter, and as far as I’m concerned there needs to be a real sprint within Whitehall, and particularly in the Department of Health, to get ready for September.
“The decisions need to happen now, not wait until the autumn – by which time those lead times would put the resolution at too late a stage.”
The comments followed reports that civil servants are bracing for a grim autumn and winter season in NHS hospitals, with the rate of patients expected to be seen within four hours at A&E possibly falling to six out of ten.