Ambulance appeal not to overstretch 999 services over New Year weekend
North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) bosses are asking people not to call 999 unless there is a genuine emergency and to consider alternative services such as local pharmacies, GPs or the NHS111 online service first.
The service has declared two critical incidents since December 19 after unprecedented pressure.
As the service heads into what is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for the service, manager are asking for the public’s support to ensure it can help people who are at most serious risk.
‘Delays can bring harm to patients’
NEAS covers 3,200 square miles across the North East and serves a population of 2.7 million people by handling all NHS 111 and 999 calls for the region, operating patient transport and ambulance response services.
Chief operating officer Stephen Segasby, said priority was to respond to emergency patients ‘as safely, quickly and effectively as possible’.
"This is always a busy time of year for us but unprecedented pressure across the health system has impacted on our ability to be able to reach those most in need and deliver the best care we can,” he said.
"Delays can bring harm to patients so it’s important that we take every measure we can to reduce them.
“Our amazing staff and volunteers continue to work extremely hard, and this unparalleled pressure is showing no sign of respite. As such, we're expecting a busy weekend and patients may experience longer waits for an ambulance.”
‘Please think before you pick up the phone’
There were steps people could take to prepare, he said: "Ahead of the extended bank holiday weekend, please ensure your medicine cabinet is stocked up with any regular medication you require as well as essentials like a first aid kit, thermometer, paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamines and plasters.
"We would always advise someone who thinks their condition is life threatening to call us but please think before you pick up the phone - do you really need an ambulance or is there another way of you getting help?
"Please always consider 111 online first and if you do think you need to go to hospital, consider whether you're able to make your own way there.
"We also ask that anyone waiting for an ambulance please only call back if their condition worsens or to cancel if it is no longer required.
“Finally, if you’re out celebrating, please have a good time but look out for each other and don’t ruin your fun by ending up in the back of an ambulance."
Examples of medical emergencies include:
Severe loss of blood;
Severe allergic reactions.
If you need advice for an everyday illness or injury, please either contact your local pharmacy for help or look at the self-care advice that’s available online from the NHS at www.nhs.uk.
You can also check your symptoms, using the online symptom checker available at www.111.nhs.uk, which will re-direct you to a health professional if you need to be seen by someone.