Today, as we were walking back from a meal out with Tina, Li and Cindy to celebrate Tina and Li's birthday, we were approaching the traffic lights where we cross the road to get from the bus stop to our flat when we spotted an old man lying on the grass by the side of the pavement.
We got to him slightly after another man (who turned out to be an off-duty policeman) who checked the contents of his carrier bag and then to see how the man was. At the time I wondered if he was thinking about stealing the man's bag but it was later clear he was checking for alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. The man looked fine, he was having no trouble breathing, he obviously had a pulse but he muttered something that none of us could hear and didn't appear to move anything but one of his hands.
Another two people now joined us who had spotted him as they drove past (before we had got there). We quickly decided to telephone for an ambulance. It seemed like the policeman, who called 999, was having trouble getting through but after a minute or two four or five police cars rushed past us on their way somewhere, followed very shortly by an ambulance that turned in front of the traffic lights and stopped by our side.
At this point the policeman was still on the telephone but quickly hung up. I wonder if he was talking to an operator while the ambulance was on its way. The paramedics quickly checked his pulse, asked about the carrier bag and got the stretcher from the ambulance. Once the man was safely strapped on we left having been there for little more than three or four minutes.
He didn't seem too ill but it's very hard to know. With any luck he'll be kept in overnight and discharged, I guess. I was still very impressed with just how quickly the ambulance arrived -- it can have been no more than three minutes from dialing the number to arrival time.
I don't know what the official statistics are but that seems good to me. It's reassured me a lot and made Xiaoxiao tell me a story she'd read on a Chinese news website about a man who spent five days lying in the middle of the road after being knocked down by a car. I don't know how true that is but it certainly shows the NHS and the British public in a good light.