Four out of five ambulance control room staff are verbally abused by callers during a shift, suggests a small study in Emergency Medicine Journal.
Staff on the receiving end of these calls said that the extent of the abuse had made them consider leaving their jobs.
The findings are based on the detailed responses of 48 people working in an NHS ambulance service control room, serving a population of 1 million people
Staff were asked to indicate the levels of verbal abuse they received during each shift, and its impact on their health and wellbeing.
On average 59 calls were taken on each shift, four of which (7%) were verbally abusive. Over 80% of staff took at least one abusive call during each shift.
Patients and other emergency callers were the worst offenders. But doctors and nurses were also verbally abusive to control room staff.
The least likely to be abusive were members of the fire service.
Staff felt the abuse stemmed more from frustration and anxiety and a lack of understanding about the role of control room staff rather than anger or drunkenness.
But verbal abuse was associated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation, as well as anxiety and depression, among staff. And it had prompted them to consider leaving their jobs.
The authors suggest that more training in defusing such situations should be offered to staff. And more should be done to find out the true extent of verbal abuse across the NHS, they say.
?Verbal abuse is distressing and may have longer term implications for both employee health and turnover,? they conclude.