Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Murder by numbers, one, two, three

In an emergency, call 999.

I remember being taught that, over and over, in infant school, junior school, in the brownies (our required uniform pocket contents included two 10p coins to make emergency phone calls with, even though 999 calls are free).

I also remember the first time I needed to put that piece of information into action - a road traffic accident in London I witnessed, when I was a post-grad student - and the moment of sheer disbelief when I was put on hold ...

The 999 teams do a phenomenal job, but there are only so many lines, so many call takers, so many crews that can be sent out. Unfortunately, some terrifying number of people have no real idea of what constitutes an emergency (note: ingrowing toenails, not being able to hear the tv, and needing to know what year the internet started are not emergencies.)

For health related 'I don't know what to do' moments, where the problem's probably not ambulance-worthy but you don't know what it is, NHS Direct has been doing sterling work for years now. (0845 46 47)

Now the London Met Police have launched a similar non-emergency single-point-of-contact number, so instead of having to find a yellow pages and look up your local police station, there's a (relatively) easy to remember phone number to call. 0300 123 1212

Here's hoping that both helps out the folks who need to contact the police that way, and frees up the 999 lines for genuine emergencies.

(See also http://www.neenaw.co.uk/ for a glimpse at life on the other side of the calls)

NHS Direct: 0845 46 47

London Met Police: 0300 123 1212

No comments: