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Callers' experiences of making emergency calls at the onset of acute stroke: a qualitative study
  1. Stephanie P Jones1,
  2. Hazel A Dickinson2,
  3. Gary A Ford3,
  4. Josephine M E Gibson1,
  5. Michael J Leathley1,
  6. Joanna J McAdam1,
  7. Alison McLoughlin2,
  8. Tom Quinn4,
  9. Caroline L Watkins1 on behalf of the Emergency Stroke Calls: Obtaining Rapid Telephone Triage Group
  1. 1Clinical Practice Research Unit, School of health, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
  2. 2Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Preston, UK
  3. 3Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, UK
  4. 4Division of Health and Social Care, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Stephanie P Jones, Clinical Practice Research Unit, University of Central Lancashire, Brook 425, School of Nursing and Caring Sciences, Preston PR1 2HE, UK; sjones10{at}


Background Rapid access to emergency medical services (EMS) is essential at the onset of acute stroke, but significant delays in contacting EMS often occur.

Objective To explore factors that influence the caller's decision to contact EMS at the onset of stroke, and the caller's experiences of the call.

Methods Participants were identified through a purposive sample of admissions to two hospitals via ambulance with suspected stroke. Participants were interviewed using open-ended questions and content analysis was undertaken.

Results 50 participants were recruited (median age 62 years, 68% female). Only one of the callers (2%) was the patient. Two themes were identified that influenced the initial decision to contact EMS at the onset of stroke: perceived seriousness, and receipt of lay or professional advice. Two themes were identified in relation to the communication between the caller and the call handler: symptom description by the caller, and emotional response to onset of stroke symptoms.

Conclusions Many callers seek lay or professional advice prior to contacting EMS and some believe that the onset of acute stroke symptoms does not warrant an immediate 999 call. More public education is needed to improve awareness of stroke and the need for an urgent response.

  • Stroke
  • pre-hospital
  • despatch
  • communications
  • neurology
  • nursing
  • prehospital care
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  • Funding This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (ref: RP-PG-0606-1066). The views and opinions expressed within this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Cumbria & Lancashire B Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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