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Ambulance trust recruits and trains record number of call handlers

PUBLISHED: 12:25 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:38 12 May 2020

East of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Ambulance Staff and 999 call handlers social distancing. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

East of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Ambulance Staff and 999 call handlers social distancing. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

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The region’s ambulance service has trained a record number of new call handlers amid the coronavirus crisis.

East of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Jenny Stocking Senior Operations Centre Manager Norwich Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANEast of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Jenny Stocking Senior Operations Centre Manager Norwich Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has recruited 211 999 and 111 call handlers over a two-week period, and they have completed training within a number of weeks to begin work at centres around the region.

It is one of several ways the trust has fought to cope with the pandemic - it has also introduced temperature checks before staff enter work and have knocked through walls at the base to create space to allow for social distancing and ensure staff safety.

Of the new recruits, 92 will be based at the ambulance operation centre (AOC) in Hellesdon, with the remaining recruits divided between Chelmsford and Bedford.

Jenny Stocking, senior operations manager in Norwich, said the service has had to come up with a “unique vigorous training programme” to carry out training quickly but effectively.

East of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Jenny Stocking Senior Operations Centre Manager Norwich Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANEast of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Jenny Stocking Senior Operations Centre Manager Norwich Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Under the new scheme, recruits had one week classsroom-based training followed by two weeks of mentoring. During this training they took calls from healthcare professionals and emergency calls and took an adapted call handler module focusing on high call demand.

This was followed by a two-week classroom-based in depth course and further mentoring on taking 999 calls.

The senior operations manager said: “Training is usually a four-week classroom based course followed by two weeks mentoring. It was important to carry out the training quickly but make sure people were trained to the levels you expect. Patient safety and the resilience levels of our staff is always our priority and is difficult to balance.”

She added: “The challenge they face is mainly the stress of the calls, it is really high pressure and a high demanding job and it will be a mental strain. We have lots of wellbeing practices for call handlers.”

East of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Jenny Stocking Senior Operations Centre Manager Norwich Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANEast of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Jenny Stocking Senior Operations Centre Manager Norwich Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

The handlers will have one of two roles - taking 999 calls or working to coordinate private ambulances to transport patients to and from hospital.

She said: “Through private ambulances we can transport Covid-19 positive patients from home to hospital or hospital to home which frees up emergency ambulances for a high call demand.


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