NEAS receives "positive" feedback on service provided by call handlers

333 people in the North East give their views on treatment.

Patients who dialled 999 but received care over the phone rather than having an ambulance sent to them have rated the North East Ambulance Service in an independent survey.

In the first survey of its type, 333 people in the North East region gave their views of 'Hear and Treat' services - a '999' service in which trained call handlers give medical advice over the telephone to avoid ambulances and paramedics being sent out when they are not needed.

Patients rated the NEAS with a score of 8.5 out of 10 when asked about the 'overall' level of care they received during their time speaking with a call handler.

The survey was conducted by the healthcare regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) across all ten ambulance services in England, with almost 3,000 patients responding nationwide.

Gerardine Hope, NEAS Assistant Contact Centre Manager said: "The results clearly indicate that we are achieving our aim to manage and deliver patients' expectations. It helps to celebrate all of the hard work that is given on a daily basis by the specialist operators from our call handling service.

"We are proud that our call operators tend to resolve the general nature of the patient calls, safely, first time around which means the caller doesn't always need to be transferred to a clinician.

"Another encouraging element is that we are already implementing a training programme to help fine tune the skills of our dedicated telephony team in the areas of potential development. This will directly benefit the service users of the future."

The survey asked people, amongst other things, whether they felt reassured by staff, whether they were treated with dignity and respect, whether they understood the advice given to them and whether they received an explanation if an ambulance was not sent out.

Other sections of the CQC survey highlighted the following results of NEAS patients:

Call Handler section
The patient was able to understand the instructions given
Rating:  10 out of 10 (better than other NHS Trusts)

Clinical Advisor section
Which of the following best describes how you feel about the length of time you waited before someone called you back
Rating:  8.4 out of 10 (better than other NHS Trusts)
Outcome section
Following advice - was it possible to follow the advice given?
Rating:  9.2 out of 10 (better than other NHS Trusts)

Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, said: "This ambulance survey shows some positive results. Almost half of the callers rated the service very good, and the majority of people seem to have confidence in their call handlers and are being treated with dignity and respect.

"When someone rings '999' they are in obvious distress and they need to be listened to and allowed to discuss their concerns. In most cases, this seems to be happening."

Martin Flaherty, Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) said: "It is vital that the ambulance service finds new ways to manage increasing demand appropriately, and Hear and Treat is a highly innovative solution that is helping us to do this whilst maintaining the highest levels of patient care. I am delighted that the results of this CQC survey have shown that the public are very positive about this new way of helping them to get the most appropriate care."

The figures were collated from ambulance service users aged 18-years and upwards, who received clinical support between the dates of 1st December 2013 to 31st December 2013.

The findings, taken from the first telephone survey carried out under the national NHS Survey Programme, were split into four different categories Call Handler, Clinical Advisor, Outcome and Overall. 

Case study

NEAS Call Operator, Karl Walker, aged 23 of Ryton has worked for the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust for the past four years.  Karl's role is very much on the frontline of patient care, as call handlers are the first point of contact when it comes to ensuring the patient receives the best possible care.

Karl said: "Every call is different. There are never two the same, which means you have to take a fresh approach when assessing each new patient. You have to quickly gauge their needs and try to get onto their wavelength.  This helps to build a rapport with the caller as the assessment procedure is crucial to making sure the person is allocated the appropriate service for their requirements.         

"The team also helps to look after the ambulance crews as they go about their duties. We are in constant close contact with the paramedics as they answer the emergency calls. The job is very intense at times but extremely rewarding."  

People interested in reading the survey in full can view the report by visiting  which contains an A-Z list of the performances of each national Ambulance trust.   

NEAS will be recruiting for part time Call handlers in the coming weeks.  Anyone interested is asked to sign up for NHS Job Alerts at This will notify potential applicants with the range of vacancies that NEAS currently has available.

For further information please contact

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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