"Call centres should be local to the area"

About: Scottish Ambulance Service

(as a service user),

I witnessed a young male being hit by a car recently. Although the care he recieved by the parademedics was good I have a particular concern about the call centre locations. As all Aberdeen 999 ambulance calls (a city with 1/4 million people) are diverted to the Invenerss call centre, the handlers often have little local knowledge.

During this incident I had little idea as to the road name and all I could go on was the proximity to a Currys superstore. This created much confusion as to locating our position. I would suggest and common sense would back this up, that having a call centre in a City like Aberdeen is highly warranted to dispatch crews without having to waste vital minutes figuring out the location. I believe a call handler from the Aberdeen area would undoubtedly have recognised my location.

I have indeed experienced this issue on more than one occasion. In another incident, the call handler was unable to locate me despite being in close proximity to a local school. This is not the failure of handler rather the administration of the call centres. A call handler based in Aberdeen would have likely recognized the school and dispatch the crew quicker.

Where lives are at stake, saving minutes on dispatch times is critical. For a city and shire region that has a population of nearly half a million people and growing it is logical to provide a call centre locally.

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Response from Pat O'Meara, National Head of Ambulance Control Services, Ambulance Control Centres, Scottish Ambulance Service

Dear Abz123,

First of all, many thanks for your message.

Ambulances are dispatched as quickly as possible to 999 calls and callers are kept on the phone to find out as much information about the incident and offer medical advice where necessary. It is important to note that this happens while the ambulance is already on its way and does not cause any delay whatsoever.

Although it may not have been clear at the time, during the beginning of the call, we would have dispatched an ambulance to the rough location with the aim of pinpointing the exact location as quickly as possible, as the ambulance arrived to general area.

Furthermore, although the ACC (ambulance control centres) staff may not have been local to the area, it is important to remember that the attending crew would do. Our call handlers work quickly with the crews to ascertain the most precise location as possible using what information we have. We also use the latest and best technologies at our ACCs to ensure that mapping is done to the best of our capabilities.

I hope I have gone some way in reassuring you that our ACCs are placed in the most well-organised way, but of course should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me here or on the below details.

Pat O’Meara

0141 810 6101

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Update posted by Abz123 (a service user)

Dear Pat,

I appreciate your response.

I think it is important to stress that a call centre local to an area cannot be matched by any number of mitigation efforts. Nothing can match the value and skill provided by local call handlers. It is therefore still my opinion that ambulances were delayed by a lack of local knowledge by call handlers.

I do however recognise the reality that you have to balance these issues against economic constraints. The efforts that are being made to mitigate against the challenge of call centres being divorced from cities such as Aberdeen are appreciated and I hope that they are continually built upon.

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