Am­bu­lance call cen­tre staff un­der at­tack Call han­dlers tell of ‘shock­ing’ ver­bal abuse

North Wales Weekly News - - NEWS - Weekly News Re­porter sam.yar­wood@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

EMER­GENCY call han­dlers have re­vealed how they are ver­bally at­tacked and deal with peo­ple who dial 999 af­ter get­ting stuck in their jumpers.

Unions are “shocked” by the level of abuse han­dlers re­ceive while work­ing to save lives.

Two years ago the Welsh Am­bu­lance Ser­vice Trust (WAST) joined forces with health boards, po­lice and the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice to crack down on ver­bal and phys­i­cal abuse of all NHS staff in Wales.

Han­dlers at WAST’s three con­trol rooms across Wales of­ten have to deal with drunk or ag­gres­sive peo­ple de­mand­ing am­bu­lances.

De­clan Hold, 22, who works in the con­trol room at Llan­fair­fechan, de­scribed the ver­bal abuse he and his col­leagues re­ceive.

He said: “I had some­one tell me he was go­ing to track me down and kill me. He wanted me to get a doc­tor to bring him a por­ta­ble MRI scan­ner to a street inn Cardiff.

“The lan­guage he was us­ingg was ter­ri­ble, I’ve never heard anyny­thing like it. But we’re no­tot al­lowed to hang up on call­ers, we have to sit there and to lis­ten to the abuse.”

De­clan says week­end evenings tend to be worse be­cause peo­ple have been drink­ing.

He added: “We are here to help peo­ple, not be threat­ened d and sworn at.”

How­ever, it is not only call han­dlers who are abused – the sys­tem­stem is too.

De­clan, who has been work­ing in North Wales and Mersey­side for two-and-a-hal­fyears, added: “I had a 55-year-old man call for an am­bu­lance be­cause he’d come out of a pub drunk and some­one had stood on his lit­tle fin­ger.

“Another guy ended up get­ting a Red One re­sponse (am­bu­lance must ar­rive within eight min­utes) af­ter he cut his fin­ger open­ing a can of beans be­cause of the way he worded the prob­lem.

“I had a lady who was stuck in­side a jumper – –w when the crews ar­rived she was still stuck in­side. “There“Th are hoax calls as well. You get kidsk ring­ing up play­ing jokes quite regularly but be­cause it’s a kid you can’t guar­an­tee that it’s a hoax so we have to send some­one to check it out.”

In 2013 WAST, lo­cal health boards, po­lice and the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice signed a new Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MoU) out­lin­ing pro­to­cols when re­fer­ring cases to the po­lice, gath­er­ing ev­i­dence and giv­ing state­ments. It also helps vic­tims when cases reach court.

A re­cent free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest by our sis­ter pa­per the Daily Post showed a para­medic or am­bu­lance tech­ni­cian is as­saulted ev­ery six days in North Wales, with 46 WAST staff left need­ing treat­ment fol­low­ing at­tacks.

Dave Thom­son, a Flintshire para­medic and Uni­son spokesman, says call han­dlers and all NHS staff should be treated with more re­spect

He said: “I was gen­uinely shocked by the level of abuse that our call-tak­ers are ac­tu­ally get­ting. I knew it ex­isted but didn’t know how bad it was.

“They have got to sit there and lis­ten to it and through­out the en­tire call re­main pro­fes­sional, which must be in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult.

“No way should they be sub­jected to that no mat­ter how drunk the caller is. There is no ex­cuse for it, es­pe­cially when the abuser is ask­ing for help.”

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