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SECAmb reminds people to seek out the alternatives

28 November 2017

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is asking the public to remember the alternatives to calling 999 if the situation they face is not a life-threatening or serious emergency.

SECAmb has been preparing for a busy winter period and is asking for the public’s support as Christmas approaches and the temperatures drop. It is reminding people to utilise options for non-emergencies including calling NHS 111, making a GP appointment, visiting a minor injuries unit, speaking to a pharmacist or simply acting on a concern before it becomes more serious.

Making use of all available NHS services will help ease the pressure on the 999 service and the wider health system as activity rises towards Christmas and into the New Year.

In November 2016 the Trust attended more than 61,000 incidents - an average of 2,050 a day. This increased to an average of more than 2,150 attendances a day in December 2016.

In addition, Emergency Operations Centre staff handled hundreds more less serious calls which did not require an ambulance response but instead needed advice over the phone or referral elsewhere in the health system.

Throughout the year, of the incidents ambulance crews attend to in person, only around half result in a patient being taken to A&E.

SECAmb Executive Director or Operations Joe Garcia said: “We’re expecting December and the following winter months to be very busy and we’ve planned to ensure we can respond as well as possible to the demand we’ll face.

“We know that it can be very worrying when someone is ill or in pain and often people reach for the phone to make a 999 call with the best intentions. We’ll always be there to help but we won’t always send an ambulance response.

“We want people to remember there are alternatives available to them and by making use of a wide range of services the pressure on our valuable resources will be lessened and the whole health system will benefit.

“People can also help us by taking the time to prepare as we approach Christmas and the new year. By undertaking a few simple tasks such as checking medicines cabinets, having a flu vaccination or helping a vulnerable relative or neighbour, people can, in turn, help us.”

SECAmb has produced a winter check list to help people during the winter months.

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 vehicle 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.

For further information on how to protect yourself and others this winter please click on the following link: https://www.nhs.uk/staywell/#d7bxHGEs0CmHyO1R.97

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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