In the emergency department, communication is essential. It ensures that all members of the team are aware of what is going on within the department and allows those in charge to identify issues early and implement plans to overcome them. Whilst not always performed perfectly, communication in the ED is relatively easy – we are all generally in the same building and so can discuss things face-to-face. We can use non-verbal forms of communication and are often able to grab a colleague to come and look at something rather than trying to describe it over the telephone.

Pre-hospitally, communication is more difficult, and so getting it right is even more crucial. With paramedics, technicians, officers, emergency call operators and dispatchers, and other staff all spread out over a vast area often covering several counties, communication is often only possible over radio. This makes clear, concise two-way messages important, as information can often be lost or interrupted. Passing information verbally is no substitute for seeing what is going on, and that can lead to difficulties too. In a major incident, multiple agencies are involved, and so co-ordination of inter-agency communication is a key step in the response.

Reports such as that into the London Bombings1, and Grenfell Tower fire2, have consistently highlighted a need to improve how we communicate in the pre-hospital environment.

Learning Bite

Coordination and communication underpins the success of any situation.

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