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