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Reasons why patients become ‘frequent callers’

There is no common factor linking all patients categorised under the category of frequent callers.

Why patients may call us regularly

An analysis of case examples, along with data from other studies, suggests that patients may regularly place calls to us for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Chronic illness (particularly multiple conditions) which are either difficult to control or where all the patients’ needs are not efficiently addressed
  • Mental ill-health, personality disorder or dependency conditions promoting chaotic lifestyle
  • Patients lack confidence to manage their condition so that anxiety leads them to call us; this can be especially relevant where patients are unable to access services ‘out of hours’
  • Poor engagement with primary and social care providers, meaning that the emergency system becomes the overall healthcare provider, e.g., homeless patients
  • Social isolation, often aligned with actual or relative poverty.

Since being set up, the unit has built up a significant understanding of the profile and reasons which cause people to use the 999 service in this way. Most patients within the category of ‘frequent callers’ may be defined within the following categories:

  • High levels of anxiety
  • A perceived need for attention
  • Chronic or acute mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Frequent fallers
  • Frequent clinical or medical need, eg: diabetic Hypos, CPOD, emphysema, epilepsies, asthma, terminal cancer
  • A failure to understand our service’s role
  • Unmet social or personal care needs
  • Specific behavioural conditions
  • Ignorant or malicious hoaxers.

How frequent callers use our service

Patients may also use the 999 service in differing ways:

  • Calling our control room but not needing or wanting an ambulance
  • Being assisted by one of our crews but not being taken to hospital
  • Being taken to hospital