Festive ambulanceWith just one week to go until Christmas, South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, (SECAmb), is urging people to check their Christmas lists include how to help themselves and the NHS this festive season.

While collecting the turkey and wrapping those last-minute gifts will be on many lists, people are urged to also ensure important jobs such as stocking up on household medicines and ordering repeat prescriptions are not missed off.

People are also urged to check on vulnerable family and friends and familiarise themselves with local pharmacy opening times and make use of alternatives to calling 999 if not facing an emergency, including using NHS 111 online for help and advice – www.111.nhs.uk

SECAmb is already facing significant pressure on its services and is expecting to handle in the region of 90K 999 calls in December and attend approximately 40,000 Category 1 and Category 2 999 calls – the two highest categories of call for its most seriously ill or injured patients.

In excess of 10,000 calls are expected to be triaged as Category 3 calls to which ambulance service aim to respond to in under two hours, although this is likely to be longer at peak periods as resources are targeted towards higher category calls.

SECAmb’s NHS 111 service is also anticipating a busy period with calls expected to range from up to 3,500 calls a day during the week to up to 5,000 calls a day at weekends. Calls to its service are expected to increase to as high as 8,000 at peak days over Christmas and New Year.

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations, Emma Williams, said: “So far in December we’ve seen an increase on the pressure we’re facing and we know that the coming weeks are going to be challenging.

“I’m extremely proud of how hard our staff and volunteers will work to ensure people get the help they need but we need the public’s help to manage the demand we face.

“The simplest way people can do this is by only calling 999 in a genuine emergency. Anyone not facing an emergency is urged to seek help by making use of alternatives including NHS 111, a service which we provide across much of our region, and by speaking to experts, including pharmacists for help and advice.

“Another big help, especially for our teams in our NHS 111 service, will be for people to ensure they have ensured that they have arranged for any required repeat prescriptions to be collected ahead of busy weekend or Bank Holiday periods. This can take a lot of pressure off the service.

“I would like to thank all our staff and volunteers for their commitment and professionalism at this busy time of year. I know they will be doing everything they can to provide the help people require while prioritising our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients.”

SECAmb has a list of winter tips to help people keep themselves and others safe during the winter months.

SECAmb winter tips

  • Take up the opportunity for flu and COVID-19 booster vaccinations when offered to protect yourself and others.
  • Look out for any vulnerable family or friends – is there anything you can do to help them? Are there any hazards in their homes? Do their slippers need replacing?
  • Wear appropriate shoes when outside especially during icy weather. We typically see an increase in slips and trips during colder spells
  • Heat homes to at least 18C (65F). You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer
  • Keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and reduce drafts – if you’re under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you’re comfortable
  • 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
  • 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 – especially ahead of weekends and bank holidays
  • 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
  • You should only call 999 in the event of a life-threatening or serious emergency
  • People who are not facing a serious emergency should make alternative arrangements such seeking advice from a GP or pharmacist so we can focus on those who need us most. If its urgent but not an emergency you can call NHS 111 or seek advice from 111 online at 111.nhs.uk