BERATING people with foreign accents and threats such as "we know where you live" are among the broadsides faced by 111 and 999 call handlers.

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) this week put out a plea for the public to refrain from abuse after an increase in reports from staff.

READ MORE: Why are 999 call handlers receiving "awful" abuse?

It led to public outcry, including suggestions that calls should be terminated but WMAS integrated emergency and urgent care director Jeremy Brown, who oversees call centre operations, insists that is not an option.

Redditch Advertiser:

“That would only happen if it was identified that the person did not need help and was purely being abusive," said Mr Brown.

“We have the ability for supervisors and managers to link into the call to offer levels of support to advisers and we are very successful in avoiding terminating calls.

“We recognise tensions can be really high, it can be really fraught.

“The team is trained to deal with the situations, to instil calmness and try to get the information required to help those in need but sometimes the level of abuse can become very personal.

“If there is recognition of an accent, that can be referred to - ‘is there anyone who can speak English? - as an example.

“Threats such as we know where you live, it is getting quite common. We try to train staff not to take it personally but we are only human and the impact can be quite upsetting, people can take it home with them."

Mr Brown says handlers can take up to 90 calls in a 12-hour shift and that increased demand has fuelled the issue.

“We are under a lot of pressure because a lot of people need our help and the services of the NHS,” he added.

“We are seeing an increased level of frequency of callers becoming frustrated and aggressive towards our staff, some of which borders on becoming quite offensive.

“You see more of it as the pressure on the NHS increases, the two often go hand in hand.

“We understand the frustration when you are waiting for help but callers need to understand that people on the other end of the line are doing their very best."

He said the service had more than 450 ambulance crews available at peak times, “more than anywhere else in the country", but even that is sometimes not enough.

“Our board this week approved the recruitment of additional ambulance crews, that takes time and the activity level at the moment far exceeds anything we were expecting," he said.

“As we get out of lockdown I can only see things getting busier but we try our very best to put as many ambulances as possible on the street.

“From a performance point of view, we are faring better than a lot of other services.”