South East Coast Ambulance Service under 'overwhelming pressure'
Video report from Tom Savvides
The ambulance trust which covers Kent and Sussex says high demand and staff sickness has left the service under overwhelming pressure.South East Coast Ambulance Service says demand has been increasing since lockdown rules were lifted. It means some vehicles are being driven by firefighters, with response times now being affected. People are being urged not to call 999 unless it's an emergency.
Fionna Moore, Executive Medical Director, SECAmb
Fionna Moore, the Executive Medical Director at SECAmb, says: "We have had difficulty in reaching patients as quickly as we would like to. We've also had difficulty answering the phone as quickly as we would like to".
This rise in calls has also coincided with call centre staff, ambulance crews and mechanics having to take time off sick because of Covid-19 or because they have to self isolate.
In some cases firefighters have been drafted in to drive vehicles because of a lack of staff.
Adam Booth, Paramedic
Paramedic, Adam booth, says: "It's been very stressful for all the staff a lot of pressure".
"We've worked really well as a team and had great support from the public who've understood the pressures we have been under and we've had to make some tough decisions and it's been a very challenging time overall".
Patients with non-life threatening conditions are being asked to use NHS 111 instead or to call their GP.
And as we head towards Autumn and into winter, the pressure on the health service is likely to increase further.