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Take the time to prepare as the clocks turn back

21 October 2019

Ambulance in snowWith clocks turning back this weekend (Sunday 27 October) and darker days and colder months ahead, South East Coast Ambulance Service, (SECAmb), is asking for the public’s help by urging them to prepare for winter.

SECAmb has created a checklist to help people prepare (see below). By following some simple advice including checking whether household medicines are in date, booking flu vaccinations, keeping an eye out for vulnerable people and making use of alternatives to calling 999 when it’s not a serious emergency, including NHS 111, the public can help SECAmb manage the demand on its services.

While activity for the ambulance service remains high all year round, winter brings additional challenges with potential for severe weather and further peaks in demand at particular times of the year such as Christmas and New Year.

December 2018 saw staff in the Trust’s Emergency Operations Centres handle in the region of 70,000 999 calls – an average of more than 2,200 calls a day. Spikes in demand can see SECAmb handle in excess of 150 calls an hour.

In addition to arranging an ambulance response to calls which need one, control room staff also provide advice over the phone and refer callers to other parts of the health system.

With this in mind, SECAmb is urging people who are not facing a serious emergency to make use of alternatives to dialing 999 including calling NHS 111, visiting a GP or getting advice from a pharmacist, and therefore keeping the 999 as available as possible for seriously ill and injured patients.

SECAmb Associate Director of Operations, Resilience, Ian Shaw said: “We’re urging everyone to take just a few precautionary steps to keep themselves, their family and friends safe. By preparing ahead of winter people can help lessen the impact the colder months will have on our service and the wider NHS.

“Along with other points in the year, we know that the winter months can be very challenging for our staff and our NHS colleagues. We do everything we can to prepare and we ask that the public help us help them by playing their part too.

“I would urge people to follow our simple advice which will help us ensure we are as best placed as possible to respond. Ahead of winter, I’d also like to pay tribute to all our staff and volunteers who I know will, as ever, be working hard to respond to patients across our region.”

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 friends 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 in 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 dialed in the event of a life-threatening or serious emergency
• People who are not facing a serious emergency should make alternative arrangements such as dialing 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

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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