Emergency medical dispatchers and Patient Transport
Services (PTS) controllers are a key part of the
ambulance service control team. The job titles, as well as
the duties, vary slightly between ambulance services.
Emergency medical dispatchers receive urgent calls to the service and help to mobilise and control accident and emergency vehicles.
Working under the direction of a control officer, they answer urgent calls, take essential information from callers, including their exact location and details of what has happened, decide on the type of response needed and, if appropriate, dispatch the nearest ambulance, rapid response car, motorcycle or paramedic helicopter. Some ambulance services split this role into call takers and dispatchers.
Dispatchers may have to give advice over the phone to people facing life-threatening situations, and help them cope until the ambulance arrives. In such situations the operator may need to calm the caller in order to ensure they can provide the information necessary for the ambulance service to be able to respond.
PTS call handlers work in the non-emergency service, organising routine transport to take patients to and from hospital appointments and home after discharge.
Full-time ambulance personnel in the NHS usually work 39
hours a week. They work rotating shifts, including nights,
weekends and public holidays.
Emergency medical dispatchers and PTS call handlers work in an office environment at a switchboard.
To be an emergency call handler you should:
Most ambulance personnel are trained by, and work for,
the NHS, although there are some opportunities to train
and work in the armed forces.
With the appropriate skills and experience it may be possible to progress to a supervisory or management role, responsible for a team of dispatchers/call handlers.
It is common for PTS controllers to move on to become emergency medical dispatchers.
It might also be possible to move to ambulance duties providing applicants meet the entry requirements and successfully complete the selection process (see Ambulance Technician profile). Another option is to move into training.
Employment in the ambulance services is generally stable, but you are likely to find most vacancies in London and the South East. It might be necessary to move to a different area in order to find a post.
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