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Former 999 Call Handler, AMA

31 replies

DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 12/06/2020 23:21

As the title says :) obviously taking patient confidentiality into account.

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TiptopJ · 12/06/2020 23:26

How do you become a 999 call handler? What kind of trading is involved and can you be based anywhere in the country to do it?

It's something that's always interested me to do and I know I could google it 😀

TiptopJ · 12/06/2020 23:26

*training not trading sorry

DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 12/06/2020 23:29

@TiptopJ an application online, then in person assessments for typing speed, spelling, ability to listen and attention to detail, then a face to face interview, then employment checks was the process to get the job. There are control rooms all over the UK, each Trust will have 3 or 4 usually.

4 weeks classroom training and 4 weeks taking calls with a mentor beside you at my agency, this varies though.

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TiptopJ · 12/06/2020 23:44

Thank you i always wondered if you needed a medical or police background.

How long did you do it for?

Shinynewcoin · 12/06/2020 23:45

Can you do it part time?

Cookiedough123 · 12/06/2020 23:46

What is the wage like? Are there many progression routes?

jaded247 · 12/06/2020 23:49

I've watched many programmes about the Ambulance service and find it soo interesting. It's such a stressful job and how in a life threatening situation you need to make sure everyone's calm and at the same time able to treat the patient quickly as possible.

What's the most stressful situation that you have ever been in? (You don't have to answer if you don't want to).

Custardcreamies101 · 13/06/2020 00:08

Is it true that you have to do 12 hr shifts?

Smallsteps88 · 13/06/2020 00:10

What’s the most ridiculous call you’ve ever taken?

PastMyBestBeforeDate · 13/06/2020 00:14

Do calls stay with you? Are you able to catch up with ambulance staff or hospital staff to find out outcomes?

OnABeachSomewhere · 13/06/2020 00:17

How often were mistakes made?

HoneysuckIejasmine · 13/06/2020 00:21

Do you find it difficult to leave work at work? I think you must carry a huge burden every day - noone calls 999 because things are good. You are very brave, OP.

crosser62 · 13/06/2020 00:26

Time wasters
Frequent/regular callers
Abusive calls
How did you deal with these?

elliejjtiny · 13/06/2020 00:27

Do you get many phonecalls from fireman sam obsessed toddlers? My now 7 year old did this once and I'm hoping it isn't just me whose child has done this. The call handler was very nice about it.

stellarparallax · 13/06/2020 00:41

Are you currently working from home?

neddle · 13/06/2020 01:40

Have there always been nuisance calls, and if not, when did they start and are they getting worse or better?

Custardcreamies101 · 13/06/2020 02:04

Do you find that you get less repeat/nuisance callers as they are calling 111 instead?

DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 13/06/2020 08:50

@TiptopJ no police or medical background required but they do want to know that you can spell medical terminology. I did it for 18 months before progressing into my current role. I still call handle from time to time (so technically not quite a former call handler as I said in the title but wasn't sure how to word it 😂). 3 years in the service so far.

@Shinynewcoin there are people who do it part time, everyone is hired on a full time basis but if they want to request part time they can do so once they're settled in after about 6 months.

@Cookiedough123 it's band 3 in the NHS so starting salary is approx £18000 a year going up to around £21000 after 3 years, that's with the new NHS pay deal, when I started it was about £16.5k a year but you do get unsocial hours enhancements for nights and weekends.

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DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 13/06/2020 09:01

Sorry forgot to answer the other half of @Cookiedough123's question. There are lots of progression routes. Most go on and become dispatchers so they send out the ambulances and speak to the crews instead of the public. Others apply to go out on the road. There are also training and quality assurance roles, that's what I do.

@jaded247 it's interesting really, the most stressful situation doesn't relate to a particular call per se. My first ever new years day shift was the closest I've come to quitting. I've never known it so busy, we had no ambulances to send as they were all already on jobs or outside the hospital, I'd taken call after call after call and just before my break I answered the phone, they asked for my name, I gave it and they said "I'm telling every newspaper in the country that (my name) killed my nan". I processed the call and then once they'd cleared the line I went outside and cried. I was adamant that I was going to quit for a while after that 😳 but people say horrible things when they're stressed and they don't see us as people, they just see us as voices. Better for us to be verbal punching bags than for the paramedics to be physical ones.

@Custardcreamies101 yep, a mix of 8, 10 and 12 hour shifts on the rota but 12s are the most common.

@Smallsteps88 probably the hoax calls. Even with ones for very minor things like hurt fingers or "I need my prescription" I have to try and remind myself, it is clearly a big emergency to this person or they wouldn't be calling" (I hope!) so the hoax callers are the most ridiculous. They come up with some really random stuff to call us about.

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DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 13/06/2020 09:08

@PastMyBestBeforeDate calls absolutely stay with us. It's very rare that we'll get an update. I met a cardiac arrest survivor who I provided cpr instructions for once which was amazing, the best feeling in the world other than a) having my own child and b) giving delivery instructions for someone else's child 😁 but mostly we don't get an update, once that call ends its straight into the next. We've got good counselling and trauma management programs for the difficult calla though.

@OnABeachSomewhere as with any job mistakes happen. We've got a very rigid call handling system that they have to follow so very small mistakes are common, we provide feedback and education after quality checking them, they have no impact on patient safety or customer service. Any time a complaint is received or we identify where there could have been a risk to safety, which thankfully is rare, they get very in depth training immediately.

@HoneysuckIejasmine that's very kind of you to say, I don't feel brave personally but I think that's because I reached the point where it just feels like any other job now. Sometimes I find it hard to leave work at work, it was much harder at the start. I'd come home and cry after every cardiac arrest because I kept thinking about the person's family. Nowadays with the exception of really, really graphic calls I'm pretty good at leaving it at the door.

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DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 13/06/2020 09:21

@crosser62 time wasters.. We have to take every call at face value and assume they're being genuine. If they aren't it's a matter for the police. If its a genuine call but not for something that needs an ambulance they'll usually get secondary triage from a paramedic or nurse in ambulance control to assess whether they could wait for GP or go in a taxi to A&E instead.
We have a frequent caller team who work with the police and social services to develop a plan for the caller and to make sure all their needs are being met while at the same time not sending ambulances to them all the time. We don't change the way we handle the calls and they get treated with full compassion and empathy, we let the frequent caller team deal with everything else.
Abusive calls get reminded that the call is being recorded, then a further warning, and then the call is terminated and the police are called. That's only if they're being abusive for the sake of it or if they're getting personal - if someone is shouting "fucking hurry up!" because they're panicking or whatever we wouldn't use it then. I've had someone threaten to murder me before for asking questions 🤷‍♀️

@elliejjtiny it is absolutely not just your son, DH found my daughter dialling 999 before (she'd only gotten through to BT so far thank god) because she "wanted to talk to mummy" 🙄😳 we get lots and lots of these and the parents are mortified so I do my best to reassure them that we're not angry (it breaks up a long shift) and it gives them a perfect opportunity to explain when they should and shouldn't call 999.

@stellarparallax nope, working from home not possible. As soon as the lockdown started those of us in other roles were back on the phones answering 999 calls so we've been in the emergency operations centre from the start.

@neddle they've always been there. It's getting better, I think the public information campaigns and shows like Ambulance are helping.

@Custardcreamies101 I'm not sure if they're calling 111 instead or if they're just not calling. We've had calls for things 111 would deal with - dental pain etc - because they think 111 is just for coronavirus.

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happytoday73 · 13/06/2020 09:31

What proportion of your calls don't need 999 really?
When my husband was very ill I apologised to the paramedic as loaded him into ambulance for calling them out as very busy (we waited 25 minutes)... Her response surprised me... She said we were the first call that really needed an ambulance she'd been to that night and she was sorry weren't able to meet target.. That was 1am on a standard midweek night...

DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 13/06/2020 09:41

@happytoday73 it's hard to say really, we don't tend to find out whether they actually needed the ambulance or not until the paramedics come through on the radio and tell us they don't need an ambulance 😂 people exaggerate their symptoms a lot so when we think someone's having breathing problems or pouring with blood they've actually coughed once or they've got a tiny scratch 🙄 but we've got no way of ascertaining that over the phone.

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Lockdownlooks · 13/06/2020 10:11

Would you be angry at a waste of time for the following (I posted on NN and got a pasting for wasting ambulance time)

I had a broken ankle couldn’t walk on it at all once and called 999 as no transport until we found a neighbour could help me to the car. Obviously cancelled 999. I know it was busy as would have been 4-5 hours (Mum who drove me couldn’t help).

DontGoJasonWaterfalls · 13/06/2020 10:29

@lockdownlooks not at all, what else were you supposed to do? 🤔 You did the right thing by cancelling once you found transport (many people would just let us turn up to find no one there).

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