Police Publish Recording of Life-Saving 999 Call

A man who could not speak received life-saving medical help when the quick-thinking call operator who answered realised that tapping was his way of communicating.

Kathryn Longstaff Sopra Steria call handler, Kathryn Longstaff, who is in her 40s and carries out the role in Cleveland Police Control Room, saved the life of a 63-year-old man after her gut instinct told her something was wrong when the caller was unable to speak.

The male caller, who is unable to be named for confidentiality reasons, dialled 999 on Saturday 16th February after suffering a medical episode. Due to a medical condition he was unable to talk, and instead, tapped to let the call handler know he was there.

Kathryn put her expertise to the test and communicated with the man by asking him a series of questions, only able to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ through tapping.

Speaking of the call, Kathryn Longstaff said: “As soon as I picked up the call, I knew something wasn’t right and I had to think quickly of a way to communicate with him as I didn’t know at that point what sort of danger he was in.

“Thankfully he had contacted police before and his number and address were already on our system. This allowed me to ask him to confirm his personal details by tapping. I then asked if he was in danger and if he needed an ambulance.

“I even asked him if he could manage to open the door to allow medical services to access his house, which he was able to do.

“As soon as I knew that he was in danger, my colleague dispatched officers to his address who also alerted the Medicar to attend as quickly as possible. Once it arrived, the man was rushed to James Cook University Hospital.

“The man could only use a whiteboard to communicate with staff and he wrote on it to thank all the staff for saving his life, which was extremely moving.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and Cleveland Police have been working together on the Medicar trial, which sees a paramedic working alongside two special constables in a dedicated response car, operating across Cleveland every Friday evening for 12 months, responding to incidents which would traditionally be attended by both services separately, such as road traffic collisions and assaults.  

Head of Force Control Room, Superintendent Emily Harrison said: “Kathryn is an absolute credit to the Force, without her quick-thinking the man might not be alive today.

“This incident was extremely challenging for all involved and without the professional and calm actions of officers, staff and medical colleagues who worked above and beyond to ensure his safety, the outcome could have been very different.

“I would personally like to thank everyone involved in this incident, it highlights the challenging work our Force and partner agencies have to deal with on a daily basis.”