How to Become an Emergency Medical Dispatcher in the UK

How to Become an Emergency Medical Dispatcher in the UK

Emergency medical dispatchers play a very important role in the emergency response chain. They answer 999 calls and obtain the caller’s location, age and nature of the medical emergency. The dispatchers use this information to send an ambulance to the location in the shortest time possible. If you possess superb active listening skills, the ability to process information fast and accurately, and love helping people in needy situations, then why not pursue this career.

What Do Emergency Medical Dispatchers Do?

The general duties of emergency medical dispatchers include;

  • Gathering important information from callers, such as location and exact nature of the emergency
  • Sending the most appropriate help to the caller -- can be an ambulance or rapid response car
  • Maintaining contact with the response team
  • Reassuring and keeping the caller calm as paramedics find their way to the scene
  • In some occasions, taking the caller through an appropriate firs aid procedure
  • Keeping records of all calls made and the details of the emergencies

Duties can be more specific in cases where the roles are split into call handlers and dispatchers. A well experienced emergency medical dispatcher can explain complex medical procedures, such as child birth, to the caller.

Work Environment

Emergency medical dispatchers work under supervisors in fast-paced control rooms or emergency response centers.

Since emergency services are provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, dispatchers typically work on a shift pattern, which includes evenings, weekends and public holidays.


Emergency medical dispatchers are paid using the National Health Service’s Agenda for Change pay system.



Annual income

Starting dispatchers (band 2


£14,294 to £17,425

Experienced dispatchers (band 3)


£16,271 to £19,268

Supervisors or managers (band 6)


£25,783 or more

Source: National Careers Service

Entry Requirements

There are no set requirements to join this profession. To get started, you will generally need;

  • GCSEs (A-C) in math, English and a science subject
  • Typing qualification
  • Some knowledge in map reading

With the following additional competencies, you will be in a better position to find employment;

  • Up-to-date knowledge in first aid (Demonstrated by a first aid certification)
  • Health and customer care experience
  • Knowledge of a local community language

Visit the National Health Service website for more information on the entry requirements set by the various ambulance service trusts.

Skills, Interests and Abilities

To achieve competence as an emergency medical dispatcher or call handler, you need to have;

  • The ability to maintain calmness and assurance during emergencies
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to operate computers and communication equipment
  • Quick and accurate decision making skills
  • The ability to work under pressure
  • Good teamwork skills
  • Good problem-solving skills

Training and Development

Before emergency medical dispatchers are allocated responsibilities, they first undergo classroom or on the job training in areas such as;

  • Computer controlled systems
  • Use of various communication equipment
  • Call prioritization
  • Role of various emergency response personnel
  • First aid

Career progression opportunities for dispatchers are very limited. If you wish to leave the control room for field operations, you can pursue a HCPC recognized course to become an emergency care assistant or paramedic.

Job opportunities

As an emergency medical dispatcher, you are likely to work in:

  • Police and fire stations
  • Ambulance service trusts
  • Hospitals,
  • The armed forces.

With vast experience and knowledge, you can become a duty officer or control room superintendent. You could also become a trainer, where your task would be to instruct aspiring and junior emergency medical dispatchers.

Visit the following websites for job opportunities and more information on this profession;

The National Careers Service estimates that there will be about 75,000 job opportunities in the health sector between 2014 and 2020. So if you are interested in this career, there are plenty of employment positions for you.


Image sourced from Bossip