Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Health Serv Res Policy. 2012 Oct;17(4):233-40. doi: 10.1258/jhsrp.2012.011141. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Reconfiguring the emergency and urgent care workforce: mixed methods study of skills and the everyday work of non-clinical call-handlers in the NHS.

Author information

Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton.



To examine the skills and expertise required and used by non-clinical call-handlers doing telephone triage and assessment, supported by a computer decision support system (CDSS) in urgent and emergency care services.


Comparative case study of three different English emergency and urgent care services. Data consisted of nearly 500 hours of non-participant observation, 61 semi-structured interviews with health service staff, documentary analysis, and a survey of 106 call-handlers.


Communication skills and 'allowing the CDSS to drive the assessment' are viewed by the CDSS developers and staff as key competencies for call-handling. Call-handlers demonstrated high levels of experience, skills and expertise in using the CDSS. These workers are often portrayed simply as 'trained users' of technology, but they used a broader set of skills including team work, flexibility and 'translation'. Call-handlers develop a 'pseudo-clinical' expertise and draw upon their experiential knowledge to bring the CDSS into everyday use.


Clinical assessment and triage by non-clinical staff supported by a CDSS represents a major change in urgent and emergency care delivery, warranting a detailed examination of call-handlers' skills and expertise. We found that this work appears to have more in common with clinical work and expertise than with other call-centre work that it superficially resembles. Recognizing the range of skills call-handlers demonstrate and developing a better understanding of this should be incorporated into the training for, and management of, emergency and urgent care call-handling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Atypon
    Loading ...
    Support Center