An Interview from within the 999 control room

What is an average shift like in the control room?

"Busy. I normally average 1 call every 8 minutes. There is up to 40 of us working across the South East Counties and there are sometimes calls waiting to be answered. The demand is very high and this has increased in the last 3 years I have been there. There are a lot of contributing factors, however we try really hard to help every single person who calls us. We all do the best we can".

What happens when a call comes in to you?

"Initally all calls go through to the BT operator, who will them put the caller through to our control room. The caller will join a que and when an operator becomes free to answer the next call, it will be from the top of the que. The first question we ask is, 'is the patient breathing and concious', if not, this immediately gets a 8 minute response time. We also need the address, starting with the postcode and the telephone number they are calling from. We then work through a system of asking questions to find out what has happened and advise the appropriate response time".

What does it take to be good at your job?

"Firstly I would say a thick skin, sometime people can be very rude or use offensive language. It's like water off a ducks back to me. You also need to be good at multitasking, you are running 2 different systems, listening to your caller, answering internal questions from other departments and remembering internal policies. All of this in a time critical and high pressure environment, knowing other calls are waiting to be answered. It defiantly is not a job for everyone".

What is the best call if you ever taken and why?

"Without a doubt the day (once in three years) a man screaming his baby was coming. After having two myself and the system to guide me, I took control of the most perfect birth. The baby's first cry was the most amazing moment ever, I never spoke to mum, but dad followed my every instruction and 20 minutes later a healthy little boy was born".

What is the hardest call and why?

"People always think 'Resus' calls are going to be the hardest. Although they are, the most time sensitive thing is asking the caller to perform CPR. They are very easy to control, I have had 4 ROSCs in my time at the control room, this is where the paramedic crew have managed to successfully bring the patient back, after CPR has been administered. The hardest calls by far are the mental health calls, as they are often just asking for help and have nowhere else to go, it's very sad. They are a very frequent occurance unfortunately".

What is your most memoriable call?

"That has to be the time I gave full CPR instructions to a man who had ran 'someone' over, he was very paniky and wasn't listening, I got him to get his hands on the chest and start the compressions only for him to declare - the patient was indeed a FOX!"