South East Coast Ambulance Service calls on public to help ease winter pressure

SECAmb said it expects to attend approximately 40,000 Category 1 and Category 2 999 calls during December. Credit: ITV Meridian

South East Coast Ambulance Service has revealed it's expecting to receive 90,000 999 calls in the month of December alone.

The service has also said it expects to attend approximately 40,000 Category 1 and Category 2 999 calls – the two highest categories of call for its most seriously ill or injured patients.

SECAmb is now calling on the public's help to ease pressure - as it enters its busiest time of year.

In excess of 10,000 calls are expected to be triaged as Category 3 calls to which the ambulance service aim to respond to in under two hours, but bosses say it's is likely to be longer at peak periods as resources are targeted ahead of weekends or bank holidays.

The ambulance service is reminding people to only dial 999 in an emergency. Credit: ITV Meridian

SECAmb Executive Director of Operations, Emma Williams, said: “We know that as we approach Christmas and New Year, we’ll see an increase demand. We also know that colder weather can lead to an increase in certain calls including slips and falls.

“The public can really help us be as available as possible for those who need us in an emergency by taking some time to think if they are prepared for winter and by making use of alternatives to calling 999 when it’s not an emergency.

“Anyone not facing an emergency but is in need of urgent advice, can call 111 or visit NHS 111 online. We also ask that people speak to their own GP and make use of the advice available from local community pharmacies.

“A big help, especially for our teams in our NHS 111 service, will be for people to ensure that they have arranged for any required repeat prescriptions to be collected ahead of busy weekend or Bank Holiday periods. This can take a lot of pressure off the service.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff and volunteers who will be working hard to respond to everyone who needs us this winter. We know winter is a challenging time for the ambulance service and we will, as ever, be doing everything we can to provide the help people require while prioritising our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients.”

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Winter tips to help people keep themselves and others safe during the winter

  • Take up the opportunity for flu and COVID-19 booster vaccinations when offered to protect yourself and others.

  • 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?

  • Wear appropriate shoes when outside especially during icy weather. We typically see an increase in slips and trips during colder spells

  • 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

  • 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 – especially ahead of weekends and bank holidays

  • 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 weatherWear bright colours at night.

  • Can you be clearly seen as a pedestrian or cyclist? If walking at dusk or at night use a torch.

  • 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 seeking advice from a GP or pharmacist so we can focus on those who need us most. If its urgent but not an emergency you can call NHS 111 or seek advice from 111 online at 111.nhs.uk