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Traffic congestion is an issue in Bristol and many other cities around the UK. Because many hospitals are based in city centres, the problem is particularly bad for ambulances and driving them at high speed is a challenge.
Paramedic Sarah Jenkins leads a double life. Half the time she's an average Bristol motorist, inching her way through the city. The rest of the time she's either at the wheel or in the back of a great big ambulance but although Sarah is technically trained to drive an ambulance at high speed, it's not actually a skill she gets to practise. She says 'Sometimes you just have to switch off the lights and sirens because the cars can't move out of your way. There's nowhere to go. It's total chaos. We call it ambulance surfing. You're in the back trying to resuscitate a patient or inject drugs and keep your balance while the ambulance is twisting and turning and going over speed bumps. And then your colleague has to slam on the brakes and you get thrown onto the floor - or even the patient.' In the years she has worked for Great Western Ambulance Service, Sarah has noticed a big increase in Bristol congestion. But it's not just the extra cars on the road that turn 999 call-outs into an obstacle course. A rise in road works, bad parking, road layout changes, speed bumps and other traffic calming schemes, also pose a challenge.