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SECAmb thanks staff, volunteers and public following busy weekend

01 July 2019

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) would like to thank the efforts of its staff and volunteers and the public for its support throughout what was an extremely busy weekend.

Activity was at times in excess of what is typically experienced on New Year’s Eve with the Trust receiving more than 200 calls an hour on Saturday (June 29).

The Trust planned ahead for an increase in demand ensuring as many staff as possible were available to respond to patients. However, with such high levels of demand and a finite number of resources, some patients not in a life-threatening or serious condition, will have had to wait longer than it would like.

While the temperatures now have dropped from their weekend high, SECAmb is urging people to follow its warm weather advice ahead of the rest of the summer and any future temperature spikes (see below).

SECAmb Chief Executive Dr Fionna Moore said: “I would like to say a really big thank you to all our staff and volunteers who worked extremely hard in challenging conditions to respond to the demand placed upon us.

“We knew the weekend would be busy and we did everything we could to put as much cover on as possible, but we know that there were times that we were unable to respond to non-life-threatened patients as quickly as we would like while we prioritised our most seriously ill and injured patients.

“While the temperatures have fallen somewhat, we remain busy and I’d urge everyone to follow our simple advice to stay safe in the sun throughout the summer.”

Warmer weather is of course welcomed by many, but it often brings with it a likely increase in certain calls for the ambulance service. Calls relating to dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn typically increase, and higher temperatures can also seriously affect people with long-term health conditions such heart conditions or high blood pressure. Older people and the very young are also at higher risk of being affected. SECAmb is urging these groups and anyone who looks after them to be equally cautious during hot weather.

SECAmb tips for staying safe and cool in the sun

• Stay in the shade or indoors. The sun is at its most dangerous between 11am and 3pm. Find shade under umbrellas, trees or canopies. It is worth remembering that the temperature is often a couple of degrees cooler if you are by water
• Use sunscreen and cover up. If you can't avoid being out in the sun apply a high factor sunscreen and wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses
• Increase your fluid intake. The normal recommended daily intake of fluid is 2.5 litres or 8 glasses per day. In extreme heat experts recommend you drink more and include a range of different fluids
• Keep your home cool. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation
• Look after the elderly. Older people are more prone to the effects of heat. If you have older relatives or neighbours, you can help simply by checking on them and reminding them to drink plenty and often. Also help them to keep their house as cool as possible, using a fan if necessary
• Protect children. Keep a close eye on young children, who need plenty of fluids. A good way to check if they are drinking enough is that they are passing urine regularly and that it is not too dark. You should check nappies regularly. Babies and the very young must be kept out of the sun
• Act safely around water and follow lifeguard advice. Avoid excessive physical exertion. If you are taking physical exercise you need to drink half a litre of fluid at least half an hour beforehand and continue to replenish your fluids during and after exercising
• Be sensible with alcohol. Hot weather speeds up the effects of alcohol so extra care should be taken when drinking. Alcohol will lead to dehydration so make sure that you alternate alcoholic drinks with water or fruit juice
• Know the perils of outdoor eating. Warm summer weather is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria so it is especially important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until you are ready to eat them. When barbecuing always make sure you cook meat until it is piping hot, none of it is pink and all juices run clear
• Keep cool at work. The office is often the coolest place to be in a heat wave. Ask your boss for air-conditioning or fans and open windows where possible. Keep windows shaded with blinds and if possible move your working position out of direct sunlight. Have plenty of breaks during the day to get cold drinks and cool down

Remember, heat stroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly and rapidly lead to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke call 999 immediately.

While waiting for the ambulance you should listen carefully to the call handler and follow the instructions given to you. The following can also help someone suffering from heat stroke:

• If possible, move the person somewhere cooler
• Increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan
• Cool the patient down as quickly as possible by loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet
• If they are conscious, give them water or fruit juice to drink
• Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol

If you need medical advice or treatment you can also talk to a pharmacist, call NHS 111, visit your GP surgery or Minor Injury Unit.

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
• the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel

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