Posted: Friday 13th May 2022
Have you ever wondered what the remarkable team in the control room of Herts Careline experience whilst on duty? Then walk a shift in the footsteps of a Herts Careline control room operator. They work tirelessly around the clock taking medical emergency calls from residents across the whole of Hertfordshire.

Residents who join the service have access to fall detectors, smoke alarms and wellbeing monitors, as well as a pendant alarm, depending on their needs. This is an emergency button worn around their neck or wrist and enables them to dial through to Careline’s 24/7 control room.

One member of the team is Georgina and here she takes you through her day in the life.

Georgina“I joined Herts Careline in August 2019 as a Careline Operator. Six months later I began working at home due to the pandemic. I love my work and that is of course down to my lovely colleagues.  We really do work as a team and communicate very effectively to get help to those who rely on us.”

“There have been many changes and improvements. My typical day is very busy, and my shifts are usually weekday 7am until 3pm. Every day is different, and the calls are very varied. It could be calling an ambulance for a suspected heart attack on one call, followed by an engineer performing a test on the next! Procedures are regularly reviewed and updated, and we must be aware of these changes.” 

“We are busy throughout the shift, there is very little in the way of gaps between the calls that come in from the residents who need our help. One of my calls involved arranging for our emergency response service, Arena Security to visit a person who did not reply when an alarm press came through from them and their contacts were unavailable to attend. I wanted to make sure that she was ok and didn’t need emergency help. We always make sure we can speak to the person when a call comes in, and if we can’t, we make sure one of their contacts, Arena Security or the British Red Cross can attend quickly to make sure they are ok and have not fallen to the floor or are unwell in bed.”

“Later in the day, I call an ambulance for a lady who felt dizzy, weak and hot. Her family contacts were also called as per our procedure and the ambulance arrived in a timely manner.  We constantly check in on all our residents awaiting an ambulance or Emergency Intervention Vehicle (EIV) to make sure that they are still responding to us and that their symptoms have not worsened.  EIV will attend to certain areas of the county if a person has fallen and needs assistance getting up and is not injured.”

“Today, I’ve also called carers to attend no replies, carers to check the time their next visit, mobile wardens to check on no replies or clients who need reassurance.  I’ve also explained how the system works for a concerned relative who said that her mother was concerned to use her alarm in case an ambulance was immediately dispatched.”

“I have dealt with some accidental presses.  This could be the dog, cat, the resident getting dressed, opening a tin or even gardening.  The most important part of these calls is explaining to the them that they are not a ‘bother’ and that the pendant help buttons are designed to be sensitive.  The last thing people want to do is take up our time and reiterating to them that that is what we are here for and that it happens all the time is central to our role.” 

“We also cover door entries on schemes which are warden-controlled blocks of flats or complexes. These calls are busy with carers first thing and during the lunch time.  Some carers etc are named on the list and we can let them in.  If not, we will try and call the warden if there is one or pipe into the client’s alarm to see if they are expecting the person at the door.”

“The afternoon is full of test calls from clients, engineer, wardens and relatives are another regular call.  We ask clients to test once a month and of course engineers go out to install new units and carry out maintenance.  Scheme managers also carry out fire tests on their schemes.”

“The first thing I look at when a call comes in is the comms log on their individual record, to see when they last pressed their alarm and at any notes on their file.  This is always important as it gives a picture of the client’s medical history and any additional information.  Some people have complex needs and may live with medical conditions or mobility issues.”

Having been a Call Operator for over 2.5 years I am confident in my role. The Team leaders and managers are excellent and there is always someone to refer to if need be.  We are well supported. The very best part of our job is that we help people, and we are there 24/7.  Whether that is emergency help or simply reassurance, we help people maintain their independence and confidence which is rewarding. We also help the client’s family and friends as they know that we are there all the time for their loved ones. We are often thanked by our clients for being there for them and by their family and friends.” 

Another member of the team is Anne and here she takes you through a typical ‘early’ shift - from 7am to 3pm.

“I’m ready to take over from the night shift at 6.50am. It doesn’t take long for the first call to come in: a lady had taken a fall, is on the Anne Tomlinfloor and has bumped her head so can’t get up. I telephone the paramedics, inform the client’s contact, and stay on the line, taking other calls as they come in and going back to check on her.”

“Between 7am and 11am is one of our busiest periods where we can take in the region of 400 calls. People are getting up for the day, they may be feeling unwell, suffer a fall, be wondering what time their carers will arrive, or be waiting for their transport to a day centre. Every call is different, and we deal with any medical emergency that arises. We also take calls from site managers checking on the residents staying in their properties and report any incidents to them which may have occurred during the night.”

“The lunch period is also a busy time for calls. So far today we will have taken around 700 calls, the majority from people feeling unwell and needing a doctor or ambulance, others enquire about their meals situation for lunch. I took a call from a gentleman’s fall detector. He did not answer when I called through to see if he was OK, so I immediately tried him on his own telephone. He didn’t answer so I went through the process of telephoning his named responder, but they didn’t answer either. His other contacts were not available, so I rang our professional responder who went out to assess the situation. When he got there, he quickly rang back to confirm that the gentleman had fallen, so I called an ambulance. I then rang his contacts to tell them what had happened.”

“Often it is in the afternoons when service users test their pendants, which we encourage them to do once a month to ensure the equipment is working correctly and get people into the habit of using their pendant. Many don’t like to ‘worry us’ as they say, but that’s what we’re here for! Its 3pm so that’s the end of my day shift, but Herts Careline is 24/7 so it’s time for the late shift to start as the operators arrive ready to take the evening calls.” 

During a 24-hour day the team at Herts Careline can take up to 1,500 calls and a third of these could be life critical calls.