Here’s how it works…

I’ve been enjoying the sun on my rest days, so no interesting stories to tell (until tomorrow when I’m back in the city on overtime). I wanted to give you a rundown of what types of call we receive and how the call is taken.

There are two types of call that we will be dispatched to: 999 Emergencies and GP Urgent Cases.

The urgent cases occur when, for example, someone phones their doctor for an ailment, and the GP (general practitioner for those not in the UK) decides that this needs to be dealt with in hospital, but not as an emergency. If the patient’s condition warrants it, an ambulance will be arranged by the GP. We have three priorities: 1 hour, 2 hour and up to 4 hour responses – all of which are normal road speed. These tend to be for things like infections that aren’t responding to antibiotics, abnormal blood test results, new immobility and other non-emergency incidents.


The other, is of course, 999.

When you ring 999, you get through to the emergency operator. They’ll ask which service you require. If you say ambulance, you are immediately put through to an EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatcher). This person will take the address and phone number in case you’re disconnected and ask you exactly what has happened (this is the job I used to do).

Once the address is confirmed (this takes seconds), a new incident is created and sent to an A&E Dispatcher, who then with some very clever computer software, locates and dispatches the nearest available unit.

So, before you’ve even told the EMD what’s happened, you’ve got an ambulance on the way…clever, eh?

You’ll then be taken through a highly effective telephone triage system to generate a call priority. Now, this bit tends to annoy people. “Don’t you just send an ambulance to everything?” They ask. How could we justify sending an ambulance to a cut finger (yes, people call for cut fingers) at the same priority as a baby not breathing?!

Once a priority code has been assigned, the ambulance crew are updated. The EMD will give some instructions to the caller, sometimes staying on the line to give things like CPR instructions, or instructions on how to control bleeding or deliver a baby, until the ambulance arrives.

I won’t go into the individual codings, as it varies depending on which ambulance trust you live under. As you can imagine, ‘not breathing’ codes higher than ‘chest pain’, which codes higher than ‘broken leg’, which codes higher than ‘stubbed toe’. In some cases (something like a stubbed toe) an ambulance will be stood down, and further telephone triage will take place by a Paramedic or Nurse in the control room. This may alleviate the need for an ambulance, freeing up the resource for a more serious call.

In a 24 hour period, the areas of Gloucester, Somerset, Avon and Wiltshire will receive around 1200 999 calls. I can assure you that there aren’t that many ambulances!

There are many other intricacies which I won’t go into, but that’s pretty much how it works.

Anyway, back to the sunshine. Hope you’re all enjoying the weather too.

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