The Mandatory Roadworthy Checks (MRCs) are what the drivers of vehicles in the UK are legally required to carry out before they take their vehicle onto the highway. The Vehicles Daily Inspections (VDIs) are the corporate checks that employers require their employees to carryout in order to confirm that the vehicle has all the company requirements on board.
The Trust has stated that if the VDI is interrupted for a call, the crew are to respond to that call and “complete the VDI when they come clear from the call that interrupted it”. If the crew are subsequently stood down from the call that interrupted the VDI to be assigned to a different call they are still required to complete the VDI.
It is most important that the crew inform EOC if they have not been able to complete the VDI to confirm that critical medical equipment such as the ECG Monitor/defibrillator, ventilator, suction are present and have been tested & found to be serviceable; the drugs must also be checked to ensure that they are to the required scale and not out of date. Unison has recommended that a One-touch button on MDT could record “uncompleted VDI” which would initiate an “Out of Service – To complete VDI” message as soon as the crew become clear, much the same as when a crew pass their meal break time or end of their shift.
All interruptions and uncompleted Checks should result in a Datix report being raised. This is because the Datix system is the Trust procedure for auditing all and any adverse incidents encountered by employees need reporting to establish the scale of the problem. Interrupted and uncompleted MRCs & VDIs are definitely adverse incidents that have the potential to cause harm, injury or fatal consequences.
There are no exemptions to the MRCs that ambulance crews can rely upon if they fail to complete their legal obligations. A hypothetical example such as a damaged tyre wall comes under the MRCs and the vehicle would not be safe on the road so the vehicle should be placed out of service until rectified. (Road Vehicle Construction and Use Regulations 1986). Any driver knowingly taking a defective or unchecked vehicle onto the highway would have no just reason or cause to do so and therefore could not claim any exemption to U.K. traffic law.
There is often a reference to “Duress” when talking about such matters, eg “my manager threatened to sack me” or “I might get suspended” if I don’t take the vehicle out on the road, but these are not reliable excuses and do not constitute duress. There might be stress, but no Duress. (UK Law refers to Duress: he had good cause to fear serious injury or death; however, a threat of serious psychological injury will not suffice”.)
Unison has long argued that 15 minutes is not a realistic amount of time in which to fully complete the MRCs and VDI. During our research we sought independent advice from Essex Police Road Traffic Department who informed us that they only have 15 minutes to check a car, “we cannot see how you can check an ambulance in under 30 minutes”. Unison has made this information known to the Trust since day one, yet the Trust only allows crews 15 minutes which is not fully protected and is regularly interrupted.
This sad state of affairs reflects why a number of employees report for duty up to 30 minutes prior to their shift starting in order to complete their MRCs and VDIs before being assigned their first call. These mandatory tasks are clearly “work related Undertakings” and as such employees should be paid at overtime rate for the additional times work ahead of their shift start. The same should apply to the time spent after the end of the shift when crews are completing documentation, referrals, Datix reports, returning PPE and booking the drugs back in. I have raised this financial issue with the Trust but as yet have I have had no response.
If a crew genuinely believe their vehicle is not Roadworthy, they must inform their supervisor / manager / EOC immediately the fact becomes known so that the call can be assigned to a different crew. The crew must then record the faults in the Vehicle Defect Log Book carried on the vehicle. If the fault cannot be quickly resolved or rectified, the crew must be allocated a replacement vehicle and then commence the MRCs and VDI required to be undertaken for that replacement vehicle.
My advice to members has always been, we should endeavour to complete our MRC Checks before commencing the VDI. If we are assigned to a call before we have completed the MRCs we should inform EOC as such and request a delay. If the delay is not authorised, we should press Mobile and then enter the facts into MDT so that details are embedded and time stamped for the Coroner to read. However, the decision to take that vehicle out on the road still rests with the driver who would be held responsible for any subsequent incident, not the Trust. After all, are we not professional drivers wishing to uphold our good reputation? We should not be waiting for a “Test Case” with all the adverse media cover and the psychological stresses that it brings.