Emergency medical dispatcher and Patient Transport Services (PTS) call handlers are a key part of the ambulance service’s control team. Emergency medical dispatchers receive urgent calls to the service and help to mobilise and control Accident and Emergency vehicles. PTS call handlers work in the non-emergency service organising routine transport to take patients to and from hospital appointments and home after discharge. The job titles, as well as the duties, vary slightly between local ambulance services.
Emergency medical dispatchers, working under the direction of a control officer, 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.
They 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 caller may be distressed, and the operator will need to calm them in order to ensure they can provide the essential information necessary for the ambulance service to be able to respond.
PTS call handlers deal with requests for transport; this can be for the same day or anything up to eight weeks ahead. They are responsible for the accurate recording of patients’ details.
Full-time ambulance personnel in the NHS work a 39-hour 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 control room operator you need:
Most ambulance personnel are trained by and work for the NHS, although there are some opportunities to train and work in the armed forces. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service does not accept armed forces qualifications.
It may be possible with the appropriate skills and experience, to progress to a supervisory or management role, responsible for a team of dispatchers/call handlers. It might also be possible to move to ambulance duties providing applicants meet the entry requirements and successfully complete the selection process. 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.
More information and a list of ambulance services are available from The Ambulance Service Association.
If you would like to know anything about Ambulance Personnel that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
London Ambulance Service
St Andrews House
St Andrews Way
Tel: 020 7887 6638
Scottish Ambulance Service
Tel: 0131 446 7000
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service
Human Resources Department
12-22 Linenhall Street
Tel: 028 9024 6113