East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is seeking the public’s help
ahead of what is expected to be a busy Easter Bank Holiday

The Trust has planned ahead for the expected increase in demand
but is urging people to use the service wisely and to seek
alternatives to 999 if not faced with a life-threatening or serious

Over the course of the Easter weekend in 2018, staff in SECAmb’s
Emergency Operations Centres in Crawley and Coxheath answered in
excess of 8,000 calls. Across the region the NHS 111 service also
faced high demand handing some 25,000 calls in the four days.

During any period of high demand, SECAmb works hard to
prioritise its response to patients with the greatest need. Anyone
not facing a serious or life-threatening emergency is likely to
wait longer for a response. Those not facing a serious emergency
are urged to consider alternatives to 999 including calling NHS
111, visiting a walk-in centre or speaking to a pharmacist.

The Trust is also reminding people to order any repeat
prescriptions and check opening hours of their GP surgeries and
local pharmacies. Details of local services can be found here:

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations Joe Garcia said: “We
know that Easter is a busy time of year for us and the wider NHS.
With schools off and a long Bank Holiday weekend we are
anticipating an increase in demand.

“With this in mind we’re urging the public to remember to only
dial 999 if it’s they’re facing a life-threatening or serious
emergency. We will be working hard to reach all patients who need a
face-to-face assessment as quickly as possible but prioritising our
response to our most seriously ill and injured patients.

“People can really help us by remembering to make use of
alternatives to 999 including calling NHS 111, where staff will
also be working hard to provide people with the assistance they

“As ever, and throughout this period, our staff will be working
extremely hard to get our patients the help they need. I’d like to
thank every member of staff and all our Community First Responder
volunteers for their continued hard work and commitment.”

Ambulance call categories

In November 2017, SECAmb implemented new national ambulance
response standards, known as the Ambulance Response Programme.

Since then, 999 calls have been prioritised into four categories
with patients in an immediately life-threatening condition being
assigned a category 1 response.

We will always look to respond to all patients as quickly as
possible in line with the assigned call category but not all calls
will receive an immediate ambulance response.

At times of very high demand patients in lower categories may
wait longer as we protect our response to patients in the highest

Further information on the call categories can be found here:

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