South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS
Foundation Trust is continuing to experience high levels of demand,
which is affecting its ability to respond quickly to 999
emergencies and so is asking the public to think carefully about
whether they really need to call for an ambulance, during what is
likely to be the busiest weekend of the year.

During the festive period so far, the Trust
has seen a 10 per cent increase in demand compared to last year and
from 7pm on Christmas Eve until 11pm on Boxing Day we responded to
4,840 emergency calls.

Last year, between 10pm on New Year’s Eve and
4am on the 1 January, the Trust handled 1,135 calls – an average of
more than three 999 calls a minute and this year, it is expected to
be even higher.

The Trust’s on call Gold Incident Commander,
Richard Webber said: “We are already receiving a high volume of
emergency 999 calls, especially across Kent and are struggling to
reach many of these in a timely manner.

“Our staff are already working extremely hard
but this does mean that for certain emergencies, some patients can
expect to wait longer for an ambulance as we focus our efforts on
responding to calls which are deemed life-threatening.

“The public can help us by avoid calling us
for non-life-threatening emergencies and seek alternative treatment
from other healthcare providers or if you do require hospital
treatment look to make your own way there.”

We’d like to remind people to only dial 999 in
the event of a serious emergency and remember the other options
available, such as calling NHS 111, which we run in partnership
across Kent, Surrey and Sussex with Care UK.

When to call 999:

If you think a patient is suffering from one
of the following you must dial 999 for an

·       heart
attack (e.g. chest pain for more than 15 minutes)

·       sudden
unexplained shortness of breath

·       heavy

unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained

traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

You should also call for an ambulance

·       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