Emergency medical dispatchers are an important part of the ambulance service control team (also known as command and control). The job title and duties can vary slightly depending on the ambulance service (some services split this role into emergency call handlers and dispatchers).
As an emergency medical dispatcher, you would answer calls from the public and GPs requesting ambulance assistance. Whilst on a call, your duties could include:
You would also take urgent 999 calls.
As as result of a call, you would decide on the type of response needed and dispatch the nearest and most appropriate vehicle (for example, an ambulance, rapid response car, motorcycle or paramedic helicopter).
With experience, you could be involved in explaining complex procedures (such as resuscitation or delivering a baby) over the telephone to a caller.
You would usually work shifts, providing cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including public holidays).
You would work at a switchboard in an office.
Emergency medical dispatchers can start on between £13,600 and £16,800 a year. With experience, this can rise to around £18,500.
Team leaders can earn up to £34,000.
You will find most jobs in the NHS, however, there are some opportunities to train and work in the armed forces.
Jobs can be advertised in the local and national press, and through Jobcentre Plus offices.
In general, to be an emergency medical dispatcher you will need:
- Good keyboard and computer skills
- GCSE's (A-C) in English, maths and science
- A typing qualification
Some employers will also prefer you to have:
You should check directly with the ambulance service you wish to join, as each service can set its own entry requirements. For details of local services, check the NHS Choices website.
As a new recruit you will receive in-house training, either classroom-based or on the job, which can take up to three months.
You will usually be trained in areas such as:
As an ambulance technician you would respond to accident and emergency calls, as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. You would usually work in a team, providing support to a paramedic during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients at the scene of an incident and during hospital transfers.
You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.
An emergency medical dispatcher needs
With the appropriate skills and experience you could progress to control room supervisor or another management role, responsible for a team of dispatchers/call handlers. You could also move into a training position.
Working as a dispatcher would give you insight into the work of ambulance crew. However, to move into ambulance work, you would need to meet the same entry requirements as someone from outside the service.
PO Box 376,
Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS),
Suite 30 Knockbracken Healthcare Park,
Saintfield Road, Belfast BT8 8SG
Tel: 028 9040 0999
London Ambulance Service,
Recruitment Centre, St Andrews House,
Devons Road, Bow, London E3 3PA
Tel: 020 7887 6638
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.