People unclear on advice given by ambulance services during 999 calls

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A poll has shown that one in 14 people who receive advice over the phone, rather than being provided with an ambulance are unclear about the instructions they receive.

The survey found that 7% of people who call 999 for an ambulance were rather given a ‘hear and treat’ service, but they were unable to understand the advice they were given by a clinical adviser or the call handler.

When people call 999 looking for an ambulance, the call handler makes the decision as to whether immediate treatment is required or not. The caller’s situation is assessed and they are provided with telephonic advice by a clinical advisor or a call handler, instead of having an ambulance dispatched to them.

The purpose of this scheme is to avoid paramedics and ambulances being dispatched unnecessarily.

A spokesman said that the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) first poll regarding the service included 3000 service users across England. It was found that there was a general positive feeling regarding the advice received, but improvements are required.

The results of the poll indicated that 75% stated that they had ‘complete confidence’ in the call handler they were linked to and 71% stated that they gained reassurance from them.

However, 27% of the people polled stated that the reasons for not dispatching an ambulance were not explained to them in detail.

Around 17% stated their disagreement with the decision not to send an ambulance.

The chief inspector of hospital at CQC, Profess Sir Mike Richards, said that the survey indicates some positive results. He said that almost 50% of the callers have rated the service as very good and most of them appear to have confidence in the call handlers and felt that they were treated with respect and dignity.

He added that when a person calls 999, they are usually in distress and need to be listened to and allowed to voice their concerns, and this is happening in most cases.

He said that since Hear and Treat is a telephone advice service, it is vital that clear instructions are provided which will allow people to understand and follow. The fact that 7% stated that they did not understand the information given to them, means that ambulance trusts should investigate this issue.

He stated that public feedback is extremely important and are expecting the NHS trusts to use the findings of the survey in a bid to identify the areas where improvements are necessary.

Image Credit: West Midlands Police

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