Emergency Contact Handler: A helping hand to those in need

Looking to kickstart a career with a purpose? Have a passion for helping those in need? In this blog, we will delve into the in’s and out’s of this role, as well as the learning and assessment process that will propel you into this rewarding role.

An emergency medical dispatcher at South Western Ambulance Service

The Role

This occupation is found in organisations which receive contacts from members of the public who are in emergency and non-emergency situations. Typical organisations are Ambulance, Fire, Police, the NHS, National Highways, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The broad purpose of the occupation is to be the first point of contact for requests for assistance from members of the public and other organisations. The employee receives emergency and non-emergency contacts from the public and other organisations. Contacts could be received via a variety of communication methods, including telephone for example 999, 101 or 111 urgent care calls, online submissions, and social media.

According to the NHS, a good emergency call handler will have the following characteristics:  

You’ll need to stay calm under pressure, be able to deal with people who may be angry or upset and work well in a team. You’ll also need excellent communication and keyboard skills. 

As an emergency call handler, no two days will be the same. You will be responsible for carrying a wide variety of tasks in your day-to-day job. 

West Midlands Ambulance Service staff (Image: WMAS)


  • Duty 1 Receive emergency and non-emergency contacts from the public and other agencies using a range of communication tools, for example, telephone or online.
  • Duty 2 Obtain relevant information in relation to the circumstances being reported.
  • Duty 3 Analyse and assess information to identify risks to the public colleagues and, where relevant, other agencies.
  • Duty 4 Decide and take appropriate course of action, using sector specific grading guidelines or mobilising procedures.
  • Duty 5 Adhere to organisational, legislative and national policy and procedures when dealing with contacts.
  • Duty 6 Use a variety of sector specific technology to identify, record and update information relevant to the incident.
  • Duty 7 Apply appropriate and effective communication techniques in a variety of situations, which could be in routine or life endangering circumstances. This includes questioning, listening, giving instructions or advice, and managing expectations.
  • Duty 8 Work with internal and external partner agencies to ensure an effective response to incidents.
  • Duty 9 Participate in continuing professional development.
  • Duty 10 Uphold organisational values and ethical standards and frameworks.

Career progression

According to RandStad, becoming a call handler is the first step into a career in ambulance and emergency services. You have plenty of growth opportunities. From a call handler role, you can become an emergency medical dispatcher or a team leader for call handlers and dispatchers. If you want to progress to leadership roles, you can become a duty manager or line manager responsible for call centre operations in emergency services. If you are a 111 NHS call handler, your career progression will be providing health advice. For instance, you can become a service adviser or health adviser who helps patients access appropriate care and the best hospitals for their needs.

Assessment methods:

Observation of live contacts and pre-recorded contacts with questions

You will be observed by an independent assessor dealing with emergency and non-emergency calls. This will last 75 minutes and be in your normal place of work, they will ask you at least 2 questions on technology. The independent assessor will also listen to 5 pre-recorded calls which you have selected prior to end-point assessment after which they will ask you at least 5 questions on communication.

Professional discussion underpinned by a portfolio of evidence

You will have a professional professional discussion with an independent assessor. It will last 75 minutes. They will ask you at least 14 questions. The questions will be about certain aspects of your occupation. You need to compile a portfolio of evidence before the EPA gateway. You can use it to help answer the questions. 

The EPAO will confirm where and when each assessment method will take place.


Does this sound like the apprenticeship and career choice for you? Apply today!

Alternatively, check out some of our other apprenticeships that may pique your interests.