South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is urging people to plan ahead to ensure they keep themselves and others safe this Christmas.

Those who require repeat prescriptions are asked to ensure they have adequate supply especially ahead of the extended four-day Christmas bank holiday weekend.

In addition, by carrying out some home checks including restocking basic medicine cabinet essentials, the public can help limit the pressure on the ambulance service and wider NHS.

People are also urged to closely follow the COVID-19 restrictions for their area to help limit the spread of the virus at what is always a busy time. Anyone with coronavirus symptoms must arrange to be tested and should stay at home.

By following the relevant local restrictions and making use of alternatives to 999 when not facing an emergency, including calling 111 or getting advice from 111 online at, people can help minimise the impact on SECAmb.

SECAmb staff, both out on the road and within the Trust’s 999 and 111 operations centres, as well as its teams of volunteer community first responders will be working hard to reach patients as quickly as possible. At times of increased demand, patients not in a life-threatening condition will wait longer as ambulance responses are prioritised for its most seriously ill and injured patients.

SECAmb Deputy Director of Operations, Emma Williams said: “Christmas is always a busy time for the ambulance service and while this year may be different in how people are celebrating, we are already very busy and we need the public’s help to ensure we are as available as possible for everyone who needs us.

“We plan ahead to the best of our ability to ensure our resources meet the likely additional demand and I am, as ever, certain that our staff and volunteers will be working extremely hard to provide help to those who need us.

“The public can really help us further by only calling 999 if they are facing a serious or life-threatening emergency and by making use of the alternatives available to them including using NHS 111 online or by phone.

“I urge everyone to plan ahead so minor illness at home doesn’t become more serious and also to please follow all the latest coronavirus restrictions for their area.

“Finally, I want to thank all our staff and volunteers for their continued hard work and for their commitment in responding to patients this festive period at the end of a very challenging year.”

SECAmb has created a winter check list for people to ensure they are doing everything they can to protect themselves and others this winter.

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