Call assessors speak out about verbal abuse they receive

Claire Brown – Wednesday 15th September – 8.30am.

“At least once a shift, every one of us will be verbally abused at some point.”

Whilst stories of physical abuse towards frontline ambulance staff is all too familiar, the voices behind the 999s and 111s are speaking out about the levels of verbal abuse they receive on an all too regular basis.  

Call assessors have been sharing some shocking examples of the types of verbal abuse they’ve experienced whilst simply trying to do their job:

  • I’ve been sworn at a lot and been told that it’s my fault if a patient dies
  • Some people just call and shout abuse at you and swear at you
  • I’ve been called a b**** and told that if I don’t help, I’ll be a murderer
  • I’ve had a sexually motivated caller who has made quite explicit remarks
  • The caller started giving be abuse on the call and said he’d make my Dad watch him sexually assault me.
  •  The caller started being verbally abusive because we hadn’t arrived within 10 minutes of their original call.
  • Callers have sworn at me, threatened to physically assault me and my family
  • The caller said that if his family member died it would be my fault and called me horrific names

Below is a compilation video featuring examples of abusive callers our staff have experienced this year. The calls have been edited down and the voices distorted to protect the identities of those involved.

Jeremy Brown, Integrated Emergency and Urgent Care Director, has worked for the service for 30 years both on the frontline as a paramedic and in control and knows all too well the abuse staff can face at times. He said: “Call assessors are the first voice you hear when you call 999 for an ambulance. They are there to do the very best by each and every patient, being abusive difficult and offensive to them is not going to help a patient and does have an impact on call assessors personally.

“When people call 999 for help, call assessors often talk to people at their most vulnerable and often at a person’s low point in their lives. Having taken 999 calls myself, I know how difficult a job it can be at times. As a call assessor you’re trained to diffuse situations and calm down callers so that we can get the vital information we need to arrange the best help quickly. It’s understandable when callers are fraught and frightened but it’s not an excuse to be abusive.”

Thank you to the below control room staff for sharing their experiences of being abused by callers:

Jeremy continues: “Swearing, screaming, threats of violence and racial abuse are all too common and it’s not acceptable and not okay. Call Assessors routinely accept that this level of abuse is part of the job and hardly report abusive calls, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t affected by the level of abuse they receive. If you ever need to call 999 or 111, all I ask is that you are courteous and treat my staff with respect.”


Notes to Editors:

  • Call assessors complete an intense two-month in-house training programme where they receive comprehensive training to use the Trust’s computer systems, complete an accreditation to use the national telephone triage system as well as a nationally recognised first aid qualification and also learn about health and physiology. Once the classroom training is complete, they are mentored in the Integrated Urgent and Emergency Care (IEUC) control room whilst taking live 999/111 calls with an experienced call assessor before undertaking a final assessment before being signed off as ready to take calls alone.
  • If there is an abusive caller, control room supervisors will often intervene on the call. They will also provide support to the call assessor following a difficult or abusive call and offer downtime.
  • Whilst the level of abuse received hasn’t historically been routinely recorded by call assessors, anecdotally, they will receive at least one abusive call per shift.

1 comment

  1. These people who verbalise Call Assessors do not deserve to be treated on the NHS! Furthermore, if these people can be that vocal over the telephone, then there cannot be much wrong with them. Also the Paramedics should turn-up with a Police escort and one should travel in the back of the Ambulance! Once treatment has been completed then they should be arrested and read their rights and taken to the Police Station and then charged to appear before the magistrates.

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