South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is urging the public to take some sensible actions to keep themselves and others safe as with temperatures set to remain high in the coming days.

Last week, SECAmb handled in excess of [18,500] 999 calls and the hot weather is expected to see demand increase further.

The Trust moved back to its highest level of escalation this morning (11 July) and is asking for the public’s support so it can best prioritise those who are in the greatest need for an ambulance response.

People are reminded of the need to make use of alternatives to calling 999 when seeking urgent advice which isn’t an emergency including visiting NHS 111 online for help and advice.

Anyone who has to call 999 is asked not to call back unless a patient’s condition worsens or they no longer need help. Calling back for any other reason ties up the Trust’s phone lines.

Hotter weather typically results in an increase in calls to the ambulance service relating to dehydration and heat stroke. Higher temperatures can also seriously affect people with long-term health issues such as heart conditions or high blood pressure.

Increased temperatures can also adversely affect older people and the very young. These groups, and those who care for them, are urged to take particular care during any warmer weather.

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations, Emma Williams, said: “We have had a very busy week and we expect demand to remain high, especially with the hotter weather forecast to last.

“I’d ask the public to really think as to whether they are facing an emergency and if not, avoid calling 999. Please also look to speak to your GP or a pharmacist and remember, you can also get help and advice from visiting NHS 111 online.

“We’d also urge people to do everything they can to keep cool and look out for vulnerable people including older people and the very young who can be seriously affected by the heat. People should stay hydrated, cover up, use sunscreen and make use of the shade.

“I want to thank all our staff and volunteers who are working hard at this busy time in challenging conditions to respond to everyone who needs our help as quickly as possible.”

SECAmb tips for staying safe and cool in the sun

  • Stay in the shade or indoors. The sun is at its most dangerous between 11am and 3pm. Find shade under umbrellas, trees or canopies
  • Use sunscreen and cover up. If you can’t avoid being out in the sun apply a high-factor sunscreen and wear a t-shirt and hat
  • Increase your fluid intake. The normal recommended daily intake of fluid is 2.5 litres or 8 glasses per day. In extreme heat experts recommend you drink more and include a range of different fluids
  • Keep your home cool. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and at night for ventilation
  • Look after the elderly. Older people are more prone to the effects of heat. If you have older relatives or neighbours, you can help simply by checking on them and reminding them to drink plenty and often. Also help them to keep their house as cool as possible, using a fan if necessary
  • Protect children. Keep a close eye on young children, who need plenty of fluids. A good way to check if they are drinking enough is that they are passing urine regularly and that it is not too dark. You should check nappies regularly. Babies and the very young must be kept out of the sun
  • Act safely around water and follow lifeguard advice. Avoid excessive physical exertion. If you are taking physical exercise you need to drink half a litre of fluid at least half an hour beforehand and continue to replenish your fluids during and after exercising
  • Be sensible with alcohol. Hot weather speeds up the effects of alcohol so extra care should be taken when drinking. Alcohol will lead to dehydration so make sure that you alternate alcoholic drinks with water or fruit juice
  • Know the perils of outdoor eating. Warm summer weather is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria so it is especially important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until you are ready to eat them. When barbecuing always make sure you cook meat until it is piping hot, none of it is pink and all juices run clear

Remember, heat stroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly and rapidly lead to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke call 999 immediately.

While waiting for the ambulance you should listen carefully to the call handler and follow the instructions given to you. The following can also help someone suffering from heat stroke:

  • If possible, move the person somewhere cooler
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan
  • Cool the patient down as quickly as possible by loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet
  • If they are conscious, give them water or fruit juice to drink
  • Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol

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 consciousness)
    • traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

You should also call for an ambulance if:

  • 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
    • the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel