Paramedics to get new radio system

ESSEX Ambulance Service is on the brink of becoming the first in Britain to implement a powerful new mobile communications system that has caused deep concern across the country.

ESSEX Ambulance Service is on the brink of becoming the first in Britain to implement a powerful new mobile communications system that has caused deep concern across the country.

The EADT has learned an announcement is imminent on a bidding process to roll out a digital radio system that could revolutionise paramedics' work.

It is understood the favoured candidate is the powerful – and controversial – Airwave system, owned and operated by telecoms giant O2.

It means that by the end of this year, paramedics and other ambulance workers could be equipped with the same technology that has been causing serious concerns among some sections of the police.

You may also want to watch:

Although there have been some trials in Merseyside and Hereford and Worcester, it is believed Essex Ambulance Service would become the first to be fully equipped with Airwave, which will be paid for by Whitehall.

The system, which operates on the latest TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) technology with microwave radiation and low-frequency electromagnetic pulsing, has already been rolled out across Britain's 51 police forces with Essex Police joining the list last year.

Most Read

It operates digitally and would allow vastly improved – and more secure – communications between paramedics and doctors and hospitals, but there are also serious concerns among users of the technology.

As it operates on a signal with a frequency of 17.6Hz, it is close to the 16Hz frequency at which the brain is said to “lose” calcium, an effect known as calcium efflux and which has been linked to Motor Neurone Disease.

The EADT revealed last December that some Essex Police officers' health was being monitored after complaints they were being treated as human guinea pigs and suffering headaches allegedly caused by the handsets.

The newspaper also revealed that some residents living near the network's masts – which, unlike ordinary mobile masts, operate on full power 24 hours a day - had also complained of feeling sick.

The system is considered so sensitive that Essex Police recently refused a request by the EADT under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the locations of Airwave masts.

It argued that disclosure would endanger national security and put the health and safety of its officers at risk.

Long term health studies on users are currently under way at London University, although these will take 15 years to complete.

But now ambulance staff look likely to be forced to use the equipment.

An Essex Ambulance Service spokesman said: “There are health issues and concerns, but we have to be guided by the experts on it. Staff will be given the chance to highlight any worries they may have prior to implementation.

“We will be the first trust in the country to roll it out later this year – the preparatory work has already started.

“It will give us far better radio coverage and it will improve our service by allowing paramedics to send back pictures of victims at accident scenes for example.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman refused to say when the Essex rollout would begin and also how much it would cost, adding: “An announcement on the system is pending.”

A spokeswoman for O2 said: “The contract has not been awarded yet because there is still a tender process ongoing.”

“However, our system is hundreds, if not thousands, of times under official health and safety guidelines – people should be greatly reassured.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus