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Ambulance service praises staff and volunteer efforts over long Easter weekend

29 March 2016

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) has praised the efforts of its staff and volunteers who went the extra mile to respond to patients over the long Easter weekend.

Across its Kent, Sussex and Surrey region demand was up 11% compared to Easter 2015 with the Trust’s 999 Emergency Operations Centres receiving more than 9,500 999 calls.

Staff in the region’s NHS111 service, which SECAmb runs in partnership with Care UK, were also extremely busy providing urgent care advice and arranging out-of-hours appointments. Some 2,000 calls originating from NHS111 received an ambulance response – an increase of approximately 2.5% on 2015.

The increase in demand was coupled with the challenges of responding to Storm Katie in the early hours of Monday. Staff and volunteers including dedicated teams of Community First Responders worked tirelessly to reach patients as quickly as possible.

The Trust remains extremely busy with demand up on last year. It is asking the public for its continued support by remembering that 999 should only be used in an emergency. Control room staff will triage calls and prioritise life-threatening emergencies. During this period of increased demand calls of a non life-threatening nature are likely to receive a longer response.

The NHS as a whole is also very busy and the Trust is working closely with hospitals across its region to minimise delays when patients are handed over at A&E. It is vital that patients are handed over without delay so that ambulance crews are free to respond to 999 calls out in the community.

SECAmb Paramedic and Regional Operations Manager James Pavey said: “We plan ahead for periods of increased demand and we were aware this weekend was going to be challenging. It’s an understatement to simply say that staff and volunteers have risen to this challenge. We know that they have gone the extra mile to help patients. We’re extremely proud of their continued dedication in the face of this increased demand.

“As we begin a new week, we’re continuing to experience high levels of demand and we are focussing our efforts to responding to our most seriously ill and injured patients. Non life-threatening calls are unfortunately likely to receive a longer response.”

“Anyone faced with an emergency shouldn’t hesitate to call but we would urge anyone else who needs help to consider all the other options available to them. This might be dialling NHS111 for help, where staff can provide support and advice over the phone and refer patient to out-of-hours services where appropriate.”

When to call 999:

 If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following you must dial 999 for an ambulance:
• heart attack (e.g. chest pain for more than 15 minutes)
• sudden unexplained shortness of breath
• heavy bleeding
• unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained consciousness)
• traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

 You should also call for an ambulance if: 
• you think the patient's illness or injury is life-threatening
• you think the illness or injury may become worse, or even life-threatening on the way to the hospital
• moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury
• the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel
• traffic conditions could cause a delay in getting the person to hospital and time could be critical

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