An unprecedented rise in the number of 999 calls made has prompted the ambulance service to offer advice to the public to help avoid unnecessary calls.
Although Christmas and New Year are always busy for the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb), the number of calls received on on Friday (December 21) and Saturday (December 22) were particularly high.
They were up more than 20 per cent on the equivalent Friday and Saturday before Christmas in 2011.
A SECAmb spokesman said the increase in calls had ‘significantly hampered’ attempts to get to patients as quickly as hoped and that it was focusing on getting to those who most urgently need help.
SECAmb senior operations manager James Pavey said: “The volume of 999 calls we are currently experiencing is far greater than we have ever seen before. All our staff are working flat out to respond to calls as quickly as possible.
“Serious and life-threatening calls are our priority. We’d ask people to consider whether their call is really an emergency or whether they would be better served by another part of the NHS such as NHS Direct.”
SECAmb has reminded the public that dialling 999 did not guarantee an ambulance response, instead advice over the phone or a referral to another NHS service may be appropriate.
The Trust advised that a 999 call would be necessary if the patient experienced chest pain for more than 15 minutes, sudden unexplained shortness of breath, heavy bleeding, unconsciousness or traumatic back, spinal or neck pain.
SECAmb issued the following advice to New Year revellers:
Wear a few thin layers when going out in the cold as these can be easily removed when entering a warm building;
If it is icy or wet outside leave plenty of time to travel and wear shoes that have a grip;
Make note of the telephone number for the local out-of-hours doctor and dentist;
Drink sensibly and responsibly. If an intoxicated person loses consciousness and cannot be roused, call for an ambulance without delay.
For more information visit www.secamb.nhs.uk