Ideas for a new health app

use of mobile phone cameras with 999 calls

An idea for either an app or at least an additional use of a mobile telephone.


I am currently the manager of the clinical skills unit Cambridge University Hospitals, but in an previous life i was a Paramedic. I would like you to explore the use of the camera on a mobile phone and how it might improve the quality of information passed to the 999 handlers and their response. The background to this is simply the general public are not good at assessing an incident (i.e. a road accident) and this is understandable. Multiple calls are often made, but the caller(s) often equate the seriousness by the numbers of cars involved or the noise associated with the crash. In addition they can be upset and traumatised, leaving the call handler to make a judgement as to the appropriate response.

Consequently ambulances turn up to a multivehicle accident to find no injuries and drivers simply exchanging insurance details. Alternatively, the ambulance can turn up to a single vehicle 'off the road' and find fatalities etc. The result is that it is not until the first emergency responder arrives (police, fire, ambulance) that an accurate situation report is made and resources allocated accordingly.

Why not have the dispatcher take the call and initiate the ambulance response, but where possible keep the caller on the line and as well as asking for more information ask them to take a picture or series of pictures to enable the en route crews to be updated. Extra resource could be added or maybe intially mobilised cancelled. The use of incident scene images might also assist with the decision to deploy immediate care doctors or an expensive resource such as a helicopter or not.


Barry Smith

Clinical Skills Unit

Cambridge University Teaching Hospitals NHS



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Idea No. 344