THE AMBULANCE trust dealing with patients from Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire has seen positive results from a survey of its handling of 999 calls.

The Care Quality Commission survey of 2,800 people showed 98 per cent of respondents felt call-handlers listened to what they had to say and 97 per cent said they were treated with dignity and respect.

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has emergency call-handlers who are the first point of contact for people calling 999.

It is there job, among others, to establish the right level of trust before then speaking to one of the control room clinicians.

This Hear and Treat Service means the clinicians can then further assess patients over the telephone, giving them advice or directing them to alternative healthcare providers such as walk-in-centres, community nurses or pharmacies.

It also means that for those patients who are seriously ill or are suffering life-threatening conditions, our ambulances will be more readily available to respond to them as quickly as possible.

A spokeswoman for SWASFT said it was important to provide the right care to patients in the right place at the right time.

“This does not always mean that the patient needs to be seen face-to-face by ambulance staff and, of those who are, it does not necessarily mean a trip to the hospital emergency department,” she said.

“Demand for ambulance services is rising year-on-year and it is important that we are able to rise to the challenge of meeting this increase, while ensuring that every one of our patients gets the right care.”

SWASFT chief executive, Ken Wenman, said the survey showed the majority of respondents felt they had confidence in staff.

“This is really important as we want to make sure our patients are comfortable and happy with this new initiative,” he said.

“Having a need to call 999 is obviously very unsettling and distressing to say the least and we must ensure that patients understand the care they are being offered – whether that is an ambulance responding to them or them being given advice over the telephone.”

Further training is planned staff are able to communicate clearly with patients and their friends and relatives.

The trust employs around 4,000 staff across the south west, covering 10,000 square miles and serving over 5.3million people and an estimated annual influx of more than 17.5 million tourists.