Covid easing leads to 'busiest week on record' for ambulance service

An ambulance leaves Taunton Ambulance Station
Taunton Ambulance Station has been responding to a huge number of incidents in recent weeks Credit: ITV News West Country

South Western Ambulance Service says it is expecting to deal with huge demands this summer after experiencing its busiest week on record.

The service says the easing of Covid restrictions contributed to over 22,000 incidents in one seven-day period recently - up by about 30% on the same time last year.

It says the demand at the moment is "unprecedented" and it is dealing with "in excess of 3,000 incidents a day" across the South West.

People are being urged to not call 999 "unless it is a genuine life-threatening emergency" and asked not to call back to ask for an arrival time.

Instead, people are being told to call the NHS on 111 for urgent but non-life threatening medical problems.'

SWAS recently experienced its busiest week in its history Credit: ITV News West Country

Steve Boucher is the County Commander for Somerset and is based at Taunton Ambulance Station. He says he and his colleagues are extremely busy and believes the easing of coronavirus restrictions have had a big impact.

He said: "To some extent people have gone back to some degree of normality in their lives. We're going into what is a very busy time of year now, into the summer months, and I guess we've got people going on holiday at home rather than going abroad.

"So I think it's a combination of all those factors where people are more local and perhaps needing our services more than they would have done.

Steve Boucher, from Taunton Ambulance Station, says people should call 999 in life-threatening situation Credit: ITV News West Country

Despite how busy it has been, the service has made it clear that people should not hesitate to call 999 for life-threatening incidents.

Steve Boucher said: "We are here for everybody that needs us. Yes, we are under a lot of pressure, but we are here to respond to those patients that need our help.

"What I would ask is that the general public consider if it is a life threatening emergency - a genuine life threatening call. If it's not consider alternatives."