Janet Greenhead: London Ambulance Service Cycle Responder

I never get tired of coming to work

Janet Greenhead is one of just four women out of twenty three cycle responders employed by the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and is the only female working out of her base at Heathrow.

"I've been with the ambulance service for nearly twenty three years now, and I love it. I've worked my way up from technician to paramedic. I'm quite a sporty person, and I do cycle. When the opportunity to become a cycle responder came up, I went for it. It's great, a real dream job for me."

The Bike Team is based at a building near the Heathrow Fire Station.

"We don't have any ambulances there, just bikes and one car, and our work area is the terminal buildings. We work shifts which vary from ten to twelve hours. My job is to respond to calls, assess patient needs, report back and give appropriate treatment, or direct any follow ups such as the need to go to hospital."

"Some people get quite stressed when they travel and this affects how they react to mishaps, or what they expect in the way of a response. That’s where we are really useful because we can get to them quickly, deal with them, and then get them on their way again. Of course, if they need more help, we can assess that and get them to a medical room or call an ambulance."

"We all work as single responders. It's very effective both in terms of resources and coverage, because it's fast and ultimately it saves ambulances. They only get deployed when needed and not as a first off.  It also reduces cases of people going to hospital when they don't really need to, which again means that ambulances and resources are freed up for when they are really needed."

But what about bike security issues?

"Our bikes are quite clearly marked as LAS bikes. They are Specialized Rockhopper mountain bikes, but they have bright yellow paint jobs and stickers, so they really stand out. There are also so many cameras and security people about in all of the terminals that we can leave our bikes, do what we have to do, and then pick them up where we left them, with kit and wheels and all the rest still intact."

And the public response?

"The whole bike thing is quite common now around the world, but medics on bikes going through the terminal buildings do still create a bit of novelty value. People are usually really impressed with how quickly we get to them, and the help that we give them."

"We carry a full kit, albeit pared down for use on the bike. I have a scaled down paramedic kit including a defibrillator, an oxygen mask, nebuliser, dressings and Entonox. Then I've got a paramedic drugs pack, so I am as equipped to treat a patient as I would be on a motorised ambulance."

As with any item of equipment, wear and tear can be an issue, but the Bike Team has this covered too.

"We're quite lucky because a couple of the boys are trained mechanics and they service our bikes, but we all look after our own stuff from day to day. We do have a bike pool, but the regular team members have their own bikes. I find that quite useful because I know my bike and I know if something’s not right, which could make the difference between me getting to a call quickly or not.

With a job that is quite physical and potentially stressful, what is it like having to do it, day in, day out?

"I'm very lucky because I never get tired of coming to work. I like to cycle, I love my job, I like being outside, and I love the uncertainty of what I might get to deal with during any one shift – and being a cycle responder means I get to do all of that and get paid for it too! It couldn’t be better really."