THE Welsh Ambulance Service is shining a light on its ‘unsung heroes’ for International Control Room Week.
The week-long event recognises control room colleagues around the globe who work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to keep communities safe and protected.
Almost 700 colleagues from a 3,200-strong workforce hold a spectrum of roles in the Trust’s five Clinical Contact Centres across Wales.
In 2019-20, they answered more than half a million 999 calls and 724,000 non-urgent calls via the 111 and NHS Direct Wales service, while co-ordinating 670,000 non-emergency patient journeys.
Clinical advice over the telephone to less ill patients also prevented the dispatch of more than 40,000 ambulances.
Chief Executive Jason Killens said: “When people think about the ambulance service, it’s often those who work on the frontline who get the recognition.
“What they might not appreciate is that we’ve got a huge team of unsung heroes behind the scenes, working just as hard to triage those calls and co-ordinate our response.
“The nature of this work is challenging and rewarding in equal measure, and we’d like to extend a huge thanks to our control room colleagues for their hard work and commitment.”
Becca, Catherine and Gareth Sutton are a brother and sister call handling trio in Llanfairfechan.
Becca, of Deiniolen, an English Literature and Creative Writing graduate, was first to join having been inspired by partner Sion, who was also recruited as a 999 call handler.
Becca, 26, said: “Sion’s since joined the Urgent Care Service, but I still love the work and no two days are the same.
“It’s a little strange working with your siblings, especially when we’re all on shift at the same time – there’s always lots of mickey-taking.”
Catherine, 32, of Bangor, said: “I managed a coffee shop before I joined the service, which was very stressful and my work-life balance was pretty much non-existent.
“I remember asking Becca if there were any jobs in the ambulance service, and by pure chance, there were, so I applied.
“I love working with my brother and sister.”
Gareth, 33, joined in March after a decade in the construction industry, which meant a daily commute from Anglesey into Cheshire, Merseyside and beyond.
“I enjoyed my job but the travelling does start to wear you down,” he said.
“Now I’ve joined the ambulance service, I’ve got a newfound respect for Becca and Catherine and what they do.
“I’m the oldest sibling, so usually it’s me looking out for my little sisters, but now I’m looking up to them for guidance.
“It’s a unique job and I’m really enjoying it so far.”
Kerry Burrows is a duty control manager in Cwmbran, having joined the patient transport service in 1983, where she met now husband Paul.
On falling pregnant, Kerry moved from the road and into control, where she would remain permanently and serve in a number of roles including call handler, dispatcher, allocator and support manager.
She said: “Back then when you had a 999 call, you’d write the name and address on a paper form and say you’d get there as soon as possible.
“Things have changed so much since then, and technology means we can now triage these calls according to their priority to make sure we reach the sickest patients first, as well as give clinical advice over the phone until the ambulance arrives.
“My daughter Danielle has followed in her mum and dad’s footsteps, and is now a call taker supervisor.
“It’s such a cliché but we’re one big family in the control room