With Christmas just around the corner South
East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is
asking for the public’s support during what is always a busy time
of the year.

Throughout the Christmas period the Trust will
be tweeting tips to help people stay safe and support the ambulance
service from its @SECAmbulance Twitter
using the hashtag

With demand already extremely high this year
with close to 62,000 responses in November – up some 3,500 on
November 2015 – staff are working flat out to reach those in need
as quickly as possible.

Ambulance control room staff will, however, be
ensuring those in a life threatening and serious condition are
prioritised. Anyone who requires an ambulance response will receive
one but patients in a less serious condition are likely to wait

SECAmb Interim Director of Operations Joe
Garcia said: “Christmas, New Year and indeed the lead up to festive
season is, as I’m sure people realise, a very busy time of the year
for us as an ambulance service and the wider NHS. We have plans in
place to manage the expected demand but we know it is going to be a

“All our staff will be working really hard to
ensure our patients get the help and treatment they need and we are
always particularly proud of the professionalism they show at this
time of year.

“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.”

Public ‘ambulance to-do

  • Order any repeat
    prescriptions you or your friends and family need
  • Stock up on your medicines
    cabinet as well as the Christmas chocolates – cold remedies, pain
    killers, indigestion tablets, diarrhoea or constipation remedies
    and plasters are useful to have in the home all year round
  • If you’re in an at risk group
    – don’t forget it’s not too late to book a flu jab
  • Look out for any vulnerable
    friends and neighbours – what could you do to make their Christmas
    and New Year safer?

Joe added: “We have developed a number of ways
in which we can help people and while we’ll always send an
ambulance response when it’s really needed, clinicians in our
control room can also provide people with advice over the phone or
we will direct callers to a more appropriate service if they don’t
require an ambulance.”

“We’d also urge people to add a few extra
items to their ‘to do’ lists including stocking up their medicines
cabinets, ordering any necessary repeat prescriptions and checking
on elderly or vulnerable friends. As the party season approaches we
want everyone to have fun but stay safe by keeping an eye on each
other and minimising the chances of having to contact us.”

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
  • traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

You should also call for an ambulance if: 

  • you think the patient’s illness or injury is
  • 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
  • the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance
    service and its personnel