Call handler/emergency medical dispatcher

Call handlers deal with emergency calls from the public and medical dispatchers make sure that the right help gets there as soon as possible.

Working life

Emergency medical dispatchers and call handlers work in ambulance control rooms, dealing with 999 or 111 calls (111 is the NHS non-emergency number). Call handlers take essential details about the patient's condition and the exact location, logging them onto a computer system. They may have to give basic first aid advice by phone in life-threatening situations.



111 call handlers handle calls from members of the public regarding non-emergency health problems. They will typically use specialist computer software to provide the caller with an appropriate response to their healthcare needs within a timeframe, and so could be dispatching an emergency vehicle or booking a GP appointment.

Emergency medical dispatchers decide on the type of response needed. This could be, for example, an ambulance, rapid response car, motor cycle or paramedic helicopter. The dispatcher looks to see what is available nearby. They have to make the best possible of resources and meet standards for response times.

Some ambulance services split the roles of call takers and dispatchers; others combine the two.

Who will I work with?

Call handlers may speak to the patients themselves. They may also deal with GPs, health centre staff (medical and non-medical), other healthcare professionals and other emergency services.

Training and development 

Training for emergency call handlers and dispatchers includes:

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