Ambulance service under 'severe pressure'

North East Ambulance Service
North East Ambulance Service

Members of the public are being reminded to think before dialling 999 as North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) reports an increase in pressure.

Calls to 999 and 111 on Boxing Day increased by a third compared with last year. NEAS answered more than 6,800 calls yesterday (26 December) compared with 5,100 on Boxing Day 2016.

Over the four days from Saturday 23 December to Boxing Day there has been a staggering 49% increase in calls to 999 and 111 in the North East. North East Ambulance Service answered more than 24,500 calls over these last four days compared with 16,400 over the same four days last year.

Douglas McDougall, Strategic Head of Operations, said: “We are experiencing severe pressures in responding to emergency calls because of a significant increase in calls.

“Please help us reach those patients who need us most by using 999 wisely. Your call could potentially delay our response to someone else who might need us more.

“Please think before you pick up the phone; do you really need to go to hospital and if you do, is there anyone else who can take you? Turning up to hospital in an ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker.”

One of the reasons for such a large increase in calls to NHS111 since Friday has been from patients wanting a repeat prescription over the weekend.

Douglas added: “I want to add my thanks to all the staff in the ambulance service who have been working over the festive season. It’s been incredibly demanding for them and they have worked tirelessly – many beyond their break or finish periods – to care for their patients.”

NEAS operational status is currently severe pressure at level three of four under the national resource escalation action plan, a framework designed to maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response for patients.

This means that while the service attempts to operate a normal service, its response standards to potentially life-threatening calls has deteriorated. As a result of additional pressures across the wider NHS network. Delays in ambulance turnaround times at hospitals, for example, has seen four-and-a-half days’ of ambulance capacity lost on Boxing Day alone.

Members of the public should only dial 999 for medical emergencies.

Examples of medical emergencies include:

· Chest pain;

· Breathing difficulties;

· Unconsciousness;

· Severe loss of blood;

· Severe burns;

· Choking;

· Fitting;

· Drowning

· Severe allergic reactions

If it is not an emergency, members of the public are asked to seek help from their GP, pharmacist or local walk-in centre. Anyone unsure of where to go can call NHS111.

More information about the local services available, as well as links to health advice, is also available at urgentoremergency.co.uk