People's lives are being put at risk because emergency call-takers are not adequately trained to deal with emotional callers, according to a recent study. Callers unable to communicate properly because of their emotional state caused the most difficulties but problems were also caused by people using mobile phones or pay-phones as opposed to land-lines.
The study, carried out by the Emergency Medicine Research Group at the University of Warwick, revealed that more than a quarter of ambulances are delayed because of such communication problems. The implications of such a high number of ambulance delays to patients who need urgent medical attention are enormous, according to Martin Shalley of the British Association of Accident and Emergency Medicine.
Nearly 2,000 emergency calls were monitored at West Midlands ambulance service and Derbyshire ambulance service, representing both an urban and a rural mix. A total of 26.3% of all the calls were subject to communication difficulties. Of those, 33.4% were attributed to the emotional state of the caller and 10% were related to the call-taker missing information or failing to be understood by the caller.
It was also noted in the report that although the use of mobile phones often helped to reduce the time taken to notify the emergency services of a problem, this had to be balanced against a high number of communication difficulties compared with landlines.