Over 95% of people who phoned 999 for an ambulance said they were satisfield with the service.
At the end of 2014, South East Coast Ambulance Service sent questionnaires to 2,400 people (including 645 in Sussex) who called 999 during October.
Of the 631 people who returned the questionnaire, 85% said overall they were ‘very satisfied’ with the service and advice provided and over 10% said they were ‘satisfied’.
It was thought that the low level of response (26%) was possibly because the survey landed on people’s doormats in very early December – a busy month for many in the run-up to Christmas. A Freepost envelope was included to return the survey.
These people were either assessed over the phone (‘Hear and Treat’); received face-to-face care from a paramedic or ambulance technician, but not taken to hospital (‘See and Treat’); or conveyed to hospital by ambulance for further treatment.
182 people said they had called 999 for a non-life threatening emergency including falls, suspected strokes, excessive bleeding, breathing problems and extreme painful teeth.
Some of the accompanying comments, gave an insight into the dilemma faced when deciding what to do:
I did not know if it was life threatening or not. My husband collapsed to the floor and was unconscious; as he’d previously had a stroke and another similar collapse I phoned 999.
Thought it was not life threatening but it turned out that it was! Got me to the right hospital very quickly and it probably saved my life!
When asked whether they had sought help before dialling 999, 205 of people said they had dialled NHS111 or called a Doctor/GP first. Those stating ‘other’ went on to describe a combination of the options already listed, including ‘carer’, ‘relative’, ‘GP’, as well as Samaritans, Careline, midwife, day centre, hospice, friends, mental health team, and consulting a medical book.
To avoid distress, certain patients were not included in the survey. Certain call ‘conditions’ were disregarded, including cardiac/respiratory arrest, social/domestic issues, overdose/ingestion. As the questionnaires were sent to home addresses, incidents that had occurred in a public place were not included.
Of those receiving an ambulance response, all but five felt that staff were kind and caring, and 98% said staff respected their privacy and dignity.
I have never needed to call 999, but was made to feel totally reassured, although it ended up as a false alarm. Cannot thank the teams enough for all their help and support.
Ambulance service advised a better method of staunching bleeding.
Very helpful – voice quiet and reassuring, especially talking to me until the ambulance arrived. My husband was having a fit and was very ill.
Call taker was absolutely brilliant in what was initially a very frightening experience.
Some of the critical comments included:
Started asking numerous questions when it was evident my wife was suffering a stroke. Eventually explained ambulance wasn’t being delayed and was already dispatched. Should have made that clear to avoid my frustration.
111 took too long before sending the ambulance because of transferring me to another person.
I had to pluck up the courage to ring 999 because I am hard of hearing. I knew from previous contact in April it would be difficult. When I used to ring the hospital to book a physio appointment they could turned up the sound. Why can’t 999?
The call-taker was asking me to talk to her on a hands-free phone while my customer was throwing up over me and collapsing. I asked a colleague to relay information but this was not acceptable to your service! Have you ever tried feeling a person’s stomach and checking for a rash whilst they vomit over you? Tricky!!!
Of the people who were given triage over the phone, most were given alternative options for care, including A&E or Minor Injury Unit, their GP or out-of-hours service, or NHS 111. The following chart describes what happens when someone calls 999:
Of the “see and treat” patients who were not conveyed to hospital, only 26 stated that they were not offered the option to be taken to hospital, and of those, only two were dissatisfied with the service they received.
Comments suggested that the Ambulance Service should look to do more to ensure that patients’ circumstances, not just their condition, are considered.
The full report of the survey is available to view.