"The experience with the call centre operator was beyond appalling"

About: Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske) / General medicine South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust / Emergency ambulance

(as a relative),

I called 999 in order to get help for my 92 year old mother who had been stuck in one position for goodness long how long. I could not get through to her doctor’s surgery as it was closed for the lunch period.

I must say I was appalled at the all the questions I was asked when I called 999. It was like speaking to a zombie, no allowance was made for the fact that my mother was so old and desperately needed help – the operator was going to ask me all the irrelevant questions on her list regardless. Questions like ‘had she been abroad in the last few weeks, or the last few years? ’ ‘Did she feel hot to the touch or cold? ’ She even said half way through the questions ‘I can understand this is frustrating for you madam’ as she went through the ridiculous questions – she had no idea! Stupid beyond belief. To top it all having gone through the questions she informed me the feedback she had from the computer was ‘it appears you do not need any help, contact your doctor and keep taking the medication’! ! This experience with the call centre operator was beyond appalling, unbelievable!

Fortunately a paramedic had also picked up the call and was round at my mother’s house before my call with the 999 call centre operator had ended. He then called for an ambulance as it was clear my mother was very poorly and needed help to be moved. My mother was taken to Treliske Hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and kidney infection. I cannot thank or praise the paramedic, the ambulance crew or the hospital staff enough – they were absolute stars.

I hate to think what might have happened if the paramedic had not picked up the call and arrived without being asked. Nor what might have happened if someone was on their own and were told they did not need help when they clearly did – where’s the human in this process?

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Response from Laura Martin, Patient Engagement Administrator, Governance, South Western Ambulance Service

picture of Laura Martin

Dear Click632

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I hope your mother is feeling much better now. I am sorry to hear you felt so let down by our 999 call taker.

We would appreciate the opportunity to look into this incident. Could you please contact our Patient Experience team, at your convenience, on 01392 261585 or email patientexperience@swast.nhs.uk to discuss this further.

Thank you again for providing feedback on our services.

Kind regards


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