Extent of abusive 999 calls revealed as plea made before Christmas

East of England ambulance control centre in Norwich. Call handler. Photo: Bill Smith

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has made a plea to members of the public after evidence of abusive calls was revealed - Credit: Archant © 2013

Shocking evidence of the abuse that call-handling staff receive in emergency control rooms has been revealed as the public are asked to "Choose Respect" when calling 999 over Christmas.

An audio clip released by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust features a member of staff being subjected to a torrent of abuse by a caller who made a series of non-emergency 999 calls.

Deputy Chief Operating Officer for EEAST Gary Morgan said that incidents such as the one in the audio clip are "not rare" and pleaded with the public to be polite when calling the emergency services. 

He said: “Sadly, incidents of staff being sworn at and abused by members of the public are not rare.

“Our call handlers can sometimes experience abusive calls on a near-daily basis.

Thirty-seven armed forces personnel have been deployed to the East of England Ambulance Service Trus

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has made a plea for politeness ahead of the Christmas period. - Credit: Archant © 2013


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“As well as being an unpleasant experience, over time this could have an impact on their mental wellbeing.

“No-one deserves abuse just for doing their job, but the work of call handlers is already difficult and often stressful.

"They are there to find out quickly what kind of incident they are dealing with and get help to people as soon as they can. They really shouldn’t be subjected to these levels of abuse."

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The ambulance service has released the clip in advance of Christmas where they receive a spike in 999 calls and a rise in abusive callers as well. 

Handlers receive emergency calls, quickly assess the seriousness of patients before then assisting callers while paramedics attend those who need help.  

“We do understand that when people call us they may be frightened, in shock or otherwise upset, but where staff are subjected to sustained racial, homophobic, sexual or other inappropriate abuse, we seek police prosecutions and will push for appropriate sentences when they reach court," Mr Morgan added.

The East of England Ambulance Service has made a plea for people in Suffolk in the run-up to Christmas and New Year to:

  • Only call 999 if you have a medical emergency – for everything else contact your GP or call 111
  • If you need to call 999, please treat our staff with respect while they’re helping you.


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