South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is urging people to make use of the alternatives to calling 999 when they are not facing a life-threatening or serious emergency.

As the Trust continues to prepare for the colder months, it is reminding the public to support it and the wider NHS by making use of a wide range of services including NHS 111 both by phone and at online at or by speaking to a GP or a pharmacist.

In November 2019, SECAmb handled more than 86,000 999 calls – an average of more than 2,800 calls each day. Demand for 999 is expected to be high again this winter.

Staff in the Trust’s NHS 111 service will also be working hard to respond to callers. NHS 111 is integrated with SECAmb’s 999 service and existing out-of-hours care, including providing access to evening and weekend GP appointments, home visiting services, minor injury units, urgent treatment centres and A&E departments. Across the NHS, by the end of the year, patients will also be booked a timeslot at emergency departments if this is deemed the most appropriate service to help and support them.

SECAmb Deputy Director of Operations, Emma Williams, said: “Our staff and volunteers are working with their usual professionalism and commitment and we’re here to help to patients whether they contact us in an emergency or by using NHS 111. People can really help us by remembering that 999 is for life-threatening or serious emergencies.

“Across the NHS services are available and we want to remind people to make use of the variety of options available to them. When it’s not serious, people can arrange to speak with their GP and there is also a wealth of knowledge available from local pharmacists.

“As always, we know that winter can be challenging with issues such as severe weather and this year has been unique in testing our resilience. I am incredibly proud of the way in which everyone at SECAmb has stepped up and delivered excellent care. I thank the public for their ongoing support and know that my SECAmb colleagues will be working hard in the coming weeks and months to keep everyone safe.”

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 family or friends – is there anything you can 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 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
  • 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 as using 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 visit