West Midlands Ambulance Service recruits 346 new 111 call handlers amid pandemic

Hundreds of new 111 call handlers have been recruited, West Midlands Ambulance Service said today.

West Midlands Ambulance Service
West Midlands Ambulance Service

The service has recruited 346 new 111 call handlers since the beginning of the pandemic, with nearly 40 more to come in the next two weeks.

The initial job advert went live at the end of March. The WMAS said it received more than 1,000 applications received in one weekend.

Bosses at the ambulance service said they anticipated the need for more call handlers when it became clear the country was heading for a major pandemic.

It launched a recruitment drive and says it is doing well in getting new recruits into work to help deal with the increased demand,

Spokesman Murray McGregor said: “When the virus started we recognised we were going to have to increase the number of handlers, as calls were going up significantly.

“So we launched a recruitment drive. We received more than 1,000 applications in three days and, as of today, 346 new handlers have started within the ambulance service since February 17.

"It’s a phenomenal number of additional staff to bring in, train and get them to answer calls – an extraordinary level of work by our recruitment team and also our training staff and mentors in call centres to get those staff up to speed taking calls.

“They have moved heaven and earth to get those people in.”

Call handlers for 111 answer the initial phone call people make when they want to talk through a medical problem.

They inform the handler of their symptoms and the handler then advises them to book a GP appointment, attend an out of hour’s service or even dispatches an ambulance for them.

Handlers are not the same as 111 clinicians, which are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics or other medically-trained professionals who give medical advice on the phone – often referred to callers by the initial handlers.

  • WMAS has asked us to clarify today’s story in which it was suggested it was struggling to recruit 111 handlers. This is not the case. It was also reported that paramedics were re-using PPE because there was a shortage. WMAS has made it clear that it has no PPE shortage and the only equipment being reused is the filter within a powered respirator hood, which is medically safe to re-use. We are happy to clarify both points.

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