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Caring for frequent callers

Incidents of persistent and regular callers to the 999 service is one of the most significant issues raised by our staff.

Last year we managed 1,622 frequent callers, who generated 49,534 incidents, utilising 3,028 12-hour ambulance shifts.

On average, frequent callers cost us £4.4million a year, and cost the wider NHS around £18.8million.

  • Who is a frequent caller?

    We define a frequent caller as a patient who calls five or more times in a month, or 12 or more times in three months. Some callers can exceed this, calling 999 several times a day.

    Although relatively small in number, these patients make it harder for us to reach others with more serious or potentially life-threatening conditions. We also recognise, though, that they will often have complex health and social circumstances which require us to work closely with other health and social care organisations once we have identified them as being frequent users of our service.

    An extreme example is a patient who had called 999 over 700 times over a two-year period. She had also called the GP co-operative over 120 times, been seen 18 times in the co-op base, and had six home visits within four months. The patient was obese, suffered with anxiety and behavioural problems as well as a range of clinical problems. The estimated costs of providing a 999 service to her over a 12-month period was £110,880.

  • Managing frequent callers

    Our frequent callers unit is a dedicated taskforce to review and manage the needs of patients who, for a variety of often complex reasons, persistently place 999 calls. The unit sits within the Patient Experiences Department and works across organisational boundaries to achieve better care arrangements and alternative care pathways in relation to the patient’s individual needs.

    The team are dedicated to managing individual cases and delivering our strategic policy and practice. Initially, there were some 400 patients who were referred to the unit. A review was conducted which culminated in reducing the number of cases to 150. New cases are referred by local staff on a daily basis.