From here to maternity…the call handler’s tale

Claire Watt, Call Handler during a patient meet up.

Claire Watt meeting up with family after delivery

Claire Watt is one of the many emergency call handlers who work at the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) health and emergency operations centre at Chelmsford, which features on ‘999 What’s Your Emergency’. 

Tonight’s episode focuses on maternity and child birth call outs, and here Claire tells us a bit about her work as a call handler and the types of pregnancy related call outs she has received…

“When I finished college at 19, I started job hunting and I ended up working at Colchester Ambulance Station scheduling the ambulance rotas. Never did I think that I would find myself taking emergency calls, and I certainly didn’t think I’d end up helping a dad deliver his own baby.

As a call handler you are the first voice a caller hears at their time of need, and sometimes the first experience they have of the ambulance service.

All you have to help someone in their time of need is your voice, the promise of help, and your instructions.

You have to rely on the caller to tell you what they see and follow your instructions. It can be frustrating that you can’t do more to help and we often deal with callers that through panic or for other unavoidable reasons, can’t give you the information that you need or can’t carry out the instruction that you give them.

One of the biggest frustrations is when callers tell you they can’t do something because they don’t know to – we are there to guide the caller through any situation until the crew arrive. Whether it’s a cardiac arrest or a child birth, we can give the appropriate instructions to help.

I’ve been a call handler with EEAST for just over a year now and I’ve had a few pregnancy related calls. Most women still have time on their side and the crew arrive before advanced labour sets in, or the lady

Childbirth calls are stressful and sometimes can be traumatic but fortunately most have a happy ending. It’s not just one patient you are helping but two, the mother and the baby.

When the beep goes in your ear to let you know there’s a 999 call, you never know what’s coming. When I heard the first beep during the first few moments of September 20, I took the address from a very calm male, and I was not expecting what he said next. His partner was in labour, and he could see this head of the baby.

I got through the questions as quickly as I could, as it was clear the baby was not going to wait to get to hospital. I started to guide the dad through delivering his baby step by step and after some reassurance and by following my instructions correctly, he managed to safely deliver his daughter before the crew arrived.

Read what happened when Claire was reunited with the family whose baby she helped deliver.

I took another pregnancy related call recently with sadly not a good outcome. A woman was 17 weeks pregnant and started to deliver the still born baby. This potentially posed a risk to the mother’s heath as well so I had to try and assist the dad in delivering the baby. Thankfully such tragic calls are few and far between.

I love what I do as there are not many jobs out there where you can really feel you have helped someone, even if the outcome is not the most positive.”


About East of England Ambulance Service

Our aim is to be the recognised leader in emergency, urgent and out of hospital care in the East of England....
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