Freezing conditions sees demand soar for ambulance services

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Snow and icy conditions saw demand soar for ‘strained’ ambulance services over the Christmas period.

East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EMAS) dealt with 5,448 more calls this season - an eight per cent rise on the same period last year.

The trust says the cold snap and resulting road conditions has put a ‘significant strain’ on its services.

In the lead up to New Year’s Day 2015 the public is urged to use 999 wisely.

Pete Ripley, associate director of operations at EMAS said: “Demand on our service continues to be significantly high, and this together with the challenging road conditions has made it very difficult for us to get to people quickly.

“To ensure we can continue to help those in the most need, we need the public’s support, particularly on New Year’s Day when we are preparing for even higher call levels.

“Please only dial 999 in genuine emergencies such as cardiac arrest and chest pain, unconscious or severe loss of blood.”

During December 25-28, 2014, EMAS gave a face-to-face response to 7,645 of the 11,712 calls received.

Only 50 per cent of the people calling 999 during that time went to hospital, meaning the ambulance crews were able to use their skills to provide treatment and care on scene, saving the patient from having to go to hospital.

EMAS says in some cases their services ‘were not used appropriately’.

The EMAS Clinical Assessment Team (CAT - paramedics and nurses) dealt with over 1,900 calls in the last four days taking some of the pressure off clinicians responding to calls in ambulance and fast response car vehicles.

The CAT takes a more detailed assessment over the telephone and advises the caller on the right course of action to take. This includes visiting an urgent care centre (if condition not an emergency, people can make their own way to these centres), making an appointment to see a GP when open, or visiting local pharmacy of treatment to allow ‘self-care’.

Mr Ripley said: “You can help by checking on friends, relatives and neighbours who may need a prescription collecting or just some reassurance, and by being aware of your local health services before you need them; NHS Choices provides details of services local to you via their website www.nhs.uk.

“Get early advice from your local pharmacy or GP (including out of hours) should you start to feel unwell, so you can start treatment and prevent your illness from worsening.

“Our colleagues and volunteers are working incredibly hard and we are proud of their continued commitment to provide the best possible care during this challenging time; many from all areas of the service working over their shift hours or coming in for extra shifts to help us give the best possible patient care. “Patients who really do need our help are treated as a priority, and people who are not in an emergency, will be further down the priority list as other life-threatening emergencies come in.”

He added: “It is not true that arriving at A&E by ambulance will get you seen faster. Hospitals have their own assessment systems in place and patients with a non-urgent condition will wait just as long as if they had made their own way to hospital.”

Historically, New Year’s Day is the busiest day for the 999 service. However, four days during December 2014 have already come close to the figure for January 1, 2014.

999 emergency, urgent and NHS111 referral calls received at EMAS:

1 January 2014 – 3,293 calls (historically the busiest day for the service)

13 December 2014 – 3,063 calls

26 December 2014 – 2,975 calls

27 December 2014 – 3,160 calls

28 December 2014 – 3,104 calls