With more than 6,000 999 calls to South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) not requiring an ambulance response each month, people are urged to consider whether their concerns could be more appropriately managed by the NHS 111 service.

NHS 111, which SECAmb operates itself across Sussex, Kent and Medway, is available by phoning 111 or by visiting 111.nhs.uk online. Regardless of the method for accessing the service, if a person is triaged as needing to speak to a clinician, this will be arranged.

SECAmb’s 111 service answers and provides health advice to some 100,000 callers each month. Of these, close to 50,000 receive an additional call back from an NHS 111 clinician to further discuss their needs and more than 25 per cent receive a call back from or are given an appointment to attend an appropriate healthcare setting.

999 calls not requiring an ambulance response typically outnumber those which fall into the highest priority – Category 1 – by around 1,000 each month. By choosing to call 111 first, when it’s not an emergency or if someone is unsure of where to get advice, the public can help SECAmb and the wider NHS manage demand this winter.

People are also urged to make use of expert knowledge available from pharmacists and ensure they have over-the-counter medicine such as painkillers to help themselves with minor ailments.

SECAmb Medical Director Dr Fionna Moore said: “NHS 111 is a really useful service that we’re proud to be the provider of across much of our region. Anyone who is not facing an emergency but still needs urgent advice or anyone who simply doesn’t know where to go for help will benefit from calling 111 or visiting 111 Online.

“Whether you call or use the website you’ll answer questions and be triaged much in the same way as if you dialled 999. You’ll get to speak to a clinician if you need to and, if you require an ambulance, one can still be arranged.”

“Like 999, NHS 111 is also extremely busy and our 111 teams are working hard to respond calls as quickly as possible. We urge people hold on the line if there is a delay in answering their call and we will get them the help they need. By thinking 111 first the public can help us manage demand over the coming weeks when we expect demand to remain high.”

SECAmb has a list of winter tips for people to undertake to 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? 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
  • 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
  • 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