Emergency call handlers and control room staff are sharing their stories of the unacceptable verbal abuse they receive whilst trying to do their best for patients.
“I have lost sleep over some calls.”
“I have been reduced to tears by the shear venom that some callers can vent at me.”
“I have been threatened by a caller who said they would find me and kill me.”
“A caller has screamed at me calling me uncaring, nasty and useless.”
The region’s ambulance service is urging people to not be mean to the team in green as part of its Don’t Choose to Abuse campaign.
A survey of East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) staff revealed that 78 per cent said they received verbal abuse every shift or regularly.
Many of those were control room staff who said they had lost sleep and that this type of abuse could impact their own health.
Gary Morgan, Deputy Director for Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) at EEAST, said: “Our emergency call handlers help save lives every day and are a vital part of the ambulance service. They give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions when a patient is not breathing and in cardiac arrest, they help assist with the birth of babies and are a reassuring voice when a vulnerable patient is having a crisis. It is unacceptable they experience abuse from callers when they are trying to their best for patients.
“If you call 999 it is really important to stay calm and listen to and answer the questions the emergency call handler is asking. The questions we ask over the phone will help us to help the patient and the call handler will give advice to help the patient before the arrival of ambulance staff.”
Jenny Coventry who has worked in EOC for 13 years said: “I enjoy the contact with the general public and the satisfaction of knowing I have done my best to help people when they most need it. However, I deal with varying degrees of abuse from callers nearly every working day. Some of the abuse does not affect me as I can see the reason behind the abuse. The caller is having a reaction to a set of circumstances outside of their control and that comes out as anger.
“What is more upsetting is where the abuse appears to be unfounded often from drunken callers or callers under the influence of other substances. The abuse becomes personal. In some instances threats of violence have been made for example “I’m going to track you down”. In other cases it is nearly impossible to help the patient as there is a prolonged stream of abuse and any attempts to calm the caller seem to fuel the fire. I find this upsetting and frustrating as it means I am not able to provide the level of care to the patient that I aspire to.”
Shelley Moore, who has worked as a call handler for two years, said: “I know that as call handlers we are not face to face with aggression and abuse like the frontline crews, but it can have a physical effect on you. It’s horrible, and as an emergency service we should not have to tolerate it. We must not tolerate it.”
To read Jenny and Shelley’s blogs in full, visit:
For more information about how calls are handled and categorised, visit: http://www.eastamb.nhs.uk/your-service/campaigns/its-your-call.htm