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Take time to prepare for winter as clocks turn back

23 October 2017

Ambulance night shotWith clocks turning back this coming weekend (29 October) and the evenings closing in, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is asking the public for its support by ensuring they take time to prepare for winter.

Pressure faced by the ambulance service has remained high throughout the year but demand is expected to increase further during the winter months.

In November alone last year, the Trust attended more than 61,000 incidents. The following month, (December 2016), this increase to some 67,000 – an average of more than 2,100 each day and 90 responses an hour.

In addition to arranging attendances to these incidents, staff in the Trust’s Emergency Operations Centres handled thousands more calls including those who didn’t require an emergency response.

By taking just a few precautionary steps to keep themselves, their family and friends safe, people can help lessen the impact the colder months will have on the ambulance service and the wider NHS.

SECAmb is urging everyone to follow the check list below.

SECAmb winter check list

• Check your home medicines cabinet – is everything in date? Restock with essentials including cold remedies, pain killers, indigestion tablets and diarrhoea and constipation remedies
• Keep up-to-date with any repeat prescriptions you or your family or friend need.
• If you or someone you look after is in an at-risk group – don’t forget to book a flu vaccination
• Look out for any vulnerable friends and neighbours – what could you do to help them? Are there any hazards in their homes? Do their slippers need replacing? We attend falls to older and vulnerable people all year round
• Wear appropriate shoes when outside especially during icy weather. We typically see an increase to slips and trips during colder spells
• When was the last time your vehicle was serviced? If your car is safer, so are you
• Carry some useful items in your vehicles such as a blanket and a spade for colder and possible snowy weather
• Wear bright colours at night. Can you be clearly seen as a pedestrian or cyclist? If walking at dusk or at night use a torch
• Heat homes to at least 18C (65F). You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer
• Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights – breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections. If outside in the cold, cover your nose and mouth – especially if you have a long-term health condition which might be exacerbated by the cold air
• Keep active when you're indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so
• Wear several layers of light clothes. They trap warm air better than one bulky layer
• 999 should only be dialled in the event of a life-threatening or serious emergency
• People who are not facing a serious emergency should make alternative arrangements such as dialling NHS 111 or seeking alternative advice from a GP or pharmacist so we can focus on those who need us most.

SECAmb Executive Director or Operations Joe Garcia said: “We know that, as ever, winter is going to be busy and challenging for us and the wider NHS. I also know that all our staff, both in our Emergency Operations Centres and out on the road, as well as in a huge variety of support roles, will be working flat out to meet the additional demand we’ll face.

“There are going to be times where we take longer than we would like to reach some patients who are not in a serious or life-threatening condition. In order to limit the number of times this happens, we’d urge everyone to remember that 999 is for serious emergencies and using it for any other purpose impacts on our ability to respond to those who genuinely need our help.

“Everyone can help us by taking the time to prepare themselves for winter. By undertaking a few simple tasks such checking medicines cabinets, having a flu vaccination or helping a vulnerable relative or neighbour, people can, in turn, help their local ambulance service.”

For further information on how to protect yourself and others this winter please click on the following link:

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

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