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What’s left on your Christmas to-do list?

18 December 2017

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is urging people to do some final checks and preparation to help ensure they keep themselves, their family and others as safe as possible this Christmas.

The service experienced significant pressure over the weekend and is expecting a busy final week before Christmas with many people out and about celebrating and roads busy with traffic.

Friday is likely to be one of its busiest Fridays of the year and comes ahead of a long Christmas weekend where staff in the Trust’s emergency operations centres and out on the road will be working hard to respond to patients as quickly as possible.

Life-threatening and serious calls will be prioritised but people in a less serious condition are likely to wait for an ambulance response when demand is high.

And while the service understands that a wait for an ambulance can be frustrating, it is urging callers to be patient and understanding towards its staff if their call is not triaged as requiring an immediate response.

On the final Friday before Christmas in 2016, SECAmb sent a response to more than 2,100 incidents and responded to hundreds more calls with advice over the phone or by directing callers to another part of the health service.

Ahead of Christmas this year, SECAmb has written a wish-list to help people prepare for the festive period and in turn lessen the chances of them having to call on the help of the ambulance service and wider NHS.

SECAmb’s Christmas wish list
• Stock up on your medicines cabinet as well as the Christmas chocolates – cold remedies, pain killers, indigestion tablets, diarrhoea or constipation remedies and plasters are useful to have in the home all year round
• Order any repeat prescriptions you or your friends and family need
• If drinking alcohol – have fun but be sensible. Look out for others you’re with and drink water between alcoholic drinks
• Excess alcohol consumption on its own isn’t usually a reason to dial 999 for someone but if there’s another complaint causing concern or someone loses consciousness then dial 999 without delay
• Look out for any vulnerable friends and neighbours – what could you do to make their Christmas and New Year that little bit easier?
• Make sure you don’t serve up undercooked turkey and other foods which can cause salmonella poisoning
• Take care and use appropriate equipment when hanging Christmas lights and decorations
• Wear layers as they keep you warmer than one thicker layer. They can also easily be removed as you warm up
• Keep homes at the right temperature – ideally 18-21 degrees
• Take extra care if it’s icy or wet. If driving, keep your distance and drive to the conditions of the road
• Have you had a flu vaccination? Speak with your GP to book an appointment
• Please remember 999 is for emergencies – if it’s not an emergency and you need health advice then you can call NHS 111, make an appointment with your GP or visit your pharmacist

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations Joe Garcia said: “The final week before Christmas is always busy and our staff will be working hard to respond to everyone who needs our help as quickly as possible. Our staff in control and out on the road always respond superbly to the increase in demand but we know that the next couple of weeks will be challenging.

“We’d urge people to consider the alternatives to dialling 999 when they’re not faced with a life-threatening or serious emergency, including calling NHS 111 for assistance.

“Staff in our emergency operations centres will be working flat out to prioritise the most serious calls and arrange the right response for our patients. We’d urge callers to be patient with them as they arrange the help they require. We are aware of a number of incidents where staff have faced abuse from callers. We understand it can be frustrating but our staff are there to help and abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.

“If people follow our advice they can help themselves and us but lowering the chances of having to call on our service over the Christmas period.”

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

For further information on how to protect yourself and others this winter please visit our website here:

Or click on the following link:

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