Q&A with an EEAST control room dispatcher

Hannah Howell, a EEAST dispatcher
Q&A with an EEAST control room dispatcher
21 January 2016

Hannah Howell, a dispatcher for the last 13 years, speaks about her role for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST).

 Q: You have a lot of computer screens to monitor. What do they all do?

Hannah: “The call handler takes the call and the address comes up on our screen and it’s our job to assign a response to that job. We have a map on the screen that shows us the county borders. Another screen is the ‘to do list’, which shows a list of the nearest resources. A third screen has a list of vehicles and everything on duty for the day and another screen tells us the standby points and who we have on scene. When you first see it, it looks like mumbo jumbo, but once you get used to it, it is fairly straight forward. We are constantly having to move resources around.”

Q: What’s the best bit of the job and the most difficult part of being a dispatcher?

Hannah: “I like the fact that I’m helping people. The most difficult part of the job is when you run out of resources to send and that is frustrating. That’s when we start putting out general broadcasts. It is so busy at the hospitals that we quite often start stacking up.”

Q: How much contact do you have with the staff on the road?

Hannah: “We have a radio to speak to crews to give extra information and at the beginning of the shift to tell them their break times. Generally we have a good relationship with the crews and we go on ride-outs with them and sometimes they come in here. Sometimes we can come across abrupt when it is really busy, but it is all about how an individual talks to the crews.”

Q: Are some shifts busiest than others?

Hannah: “Mondays are traditionally busy with lots of GP calls and every Friday and Saturday night. However, every day is busy at the moment and a weekday night can be just as busy as a weekend. It seems that we never have enough resources and most shifts we have put out at least one general broadcast. Everyone seems to want an ambulance when we are changing over shifts and we have to wait for new crews to sign on.”

Q: What’s the atmosphere like in the control room?

Hannah: “It is normally quite calm. You get used to how busy it is and if the call handlers need to tell us something, it goes through the team leaders to control the volume in the room and ensure there isn’t lots of shouting out.”

East of England Ambulance Headquarters
Whiting Way
Sat Nav postcode SG8 6NA