South Central Ambulance Services declares critical incident due to pressure on its services

South Central Ambulance Service branding can be seen on an ambulance. Credit: ITV Meridian

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), one of the biggest in the South East of England, has declared a critical incident due to pressures on its services.

The NHS Trust made the announcement last night, saying it was facing a number of challenges.

It said it is experience an 'increasing number' of 999 calls to the service, which combined with patients calling back if there is a delay in response to them, means its capacity is 'severely challenged'.

SCAS added that call volumes due to the high temperatures, combined with 'challenges' of handing over patients to busy hospitals in the region, is further impacting its ability to response.

What other services can you use?

Urgent Treatment Centres

Urgent treatment centres (UTCs) are GP-led, open at least 12 hours a day, every day, offer appointments that can be booked through 111 or through a GP referral, and are equipped to diagnose and deal with many of the most common ailments people attend A&E for.

UTCs will also ease the pressure on hospitals, leaving other parts of the system free to treat the most serious cases. The UTC offer will result in decreased attendance at A&E, or, in co-located services offer the opportunity for streaming at the front door. All UTC services will be considered a Type 3 A&E.

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GP Practice

A General Practitioner (GP) is your family doctor and is the main point of contact for general healthcare for NHS patients. All UK residents are entitled to the services of an NHS GP.

GPs are highly skilled doctors who support patients throughout their lives. They help you to manage your health and prevent illness and are trained in all aspects of general medicine. This includes child health, mental health, adult medicine, the diagnosis and management of acute medical and surgical problems and the management of long term health conditions.

GPs assess, diagnose, treat and manage illness. They carry out screening for some cancers and promote general health and wellbeing. GPs act as a patient’s advocate, supporting and representing a patient’s best interests to ensure they receive the best and most appropriate health and/or social care.

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As qualified healthcare professionals, they can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.

If symptoms suggest it's something more serious, pharmacists have the right training to make sure you get the help you need. For example they will tell you if you need to see a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.

All pharmacists train for 5 years in the use of medicines. They are also trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice.

Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You do not need an appointment.

Most pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard.

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The service is currently prioritising responses based on the severity of a patients situation, with those with life-threatening and serious emergencies being dealt with first.

There will be delays in responding to other patients with less urgent needs who are assessed by call handlers as requiring an ambulance response, it added.

Patients are being asked where at all possible to see alternative treatment such as using the NHS 111 online service, accessing a local urgent care centre or making use of nearby pharmacies.

SCAS also handles 111 calls across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and parts of the South Coast including Hampshire.

It says people should not hang up if they are in a queue to speak to a 111 advisor as this will send them to the back of the queue.

By declaring a critical incident, it enables the trust to seek further support from its partners.