Ambulance service plans for busy winter

An EMAS ambulance ready for action in Sleaford. EMN-191218-163333001
An EMAS ambulance ready for action in Sleaford. EMN-191218-163333001

Plans are well underway to ensure that teams at East Midlands Ambulance Service are ready for another busy winter period in Lincolnshire.

Throughout 2019, they have seen a six per cent increase in demand compared to 2018, and they expect this to continue into the winter.

It has already seen A&Es in the county under pressure with reports of ambulances queueing to hand over patients due to increasing demand.

Since last winter, the ambulance service says it has welcomed almost 300 new staff members to frontline teams, many will be out on the road for this busiest period.

Transformation of services and more effective working with NHS and care partners are hoped to help to reduce the number of 999 calls ending up at A&E departments.

In Lincolnshire, EMAS will continue to work closely with LIVES and other local organisations.

Thanks to additional funding, older vehicles which have reached the end of their working lives have been replaced, meaning the average age of a vehicle is just three years old – and all are under seven years old. The service says this will help it respond more quickly and consistently and provide a more comfortable environment for patients and crews.

Chief executive Richard Henderson said: “The whole health system continues to be under immense pressure and so we know that we will continue to be busy throughout this winter.

“This means that at times we will have to prioritise patients, treating those with urgent and immediately life-threatening injuries and conditions first and asking others to wait until crews become available.

“We will have additional staff out on the road and in our 999 control room on key dates where we anticipate demand to be especially high, and will deploy mobile treatment centres to specific locations to help reduce pressures on the NHS system.

“We continue to work with all hospitals across our region to reduce delays when handing over patients at accident and emergency departments so that our vehicles are back out on the road as soon as possible.

“We are working closely with GPs and our hospital and community health trust partners to reduce the number of people we take to accident and emergency by establishing and clarifying alternative pathways.

“We are supporting our staff to help keep them healthy at work and out on the road during what we expect to be a sustained period of high demand.

“However, we also need the public to play their part by taking self-care seriously, and if they need medical assistance, by ensuring they are accessing the best, quickest and most appropriate places to get the help they need – for example visiting a pharmacist or their local urgent treatment centre.”

EMAS has been preparing for peak demand during December and January, especially on the day many refer to as Black Friday (December 20, when work parties are in full swing), New Years’ Eve and New Years’ Day.

On average, 999 control room receives 2,147 calls every day. However, last winter they took 3,185 calls on ‘Black Friday’, 2,749 calls on New Years’ Eve, and 3,519 calls on New Years’ Day.

Mr Henderson added: “We want to make sure that our highly-skilled ambulance crews are able to be there for patients who really need us, such as those who are experiencing a stroke or who are having a heart attack.

“To help enable us to do this, please make sure you are only calling for an ambulance in a genuine emergency.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of our incredible staff who will be going the extra mile this winter to ensure our patients get the help they need.”

Other plans in place to help manage winter demand include extra resources from private ambulance services, reviewing the 4x4 availability ahead of inclement weather, and they are in conversations with St John Ambulance to provide additional services in city centres to deal with drunken revellers.