New Year calls to EMAS reach ‘significant pressure’ point

BUSY NEW YEAR: EMAS produced this diagram showing the demand for its services on New Years Day.  Photo supplied.
BUSY NEW YEAR: EMAS produced this diagram showing the demand for its services on New Years Day. Photo supplied.
  • Ambulance service faced ‘huge increase in demand’ on New Year’s Day
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South Holland’s ambulance service is recovering from a New Year’s weekend when it faced “significant pressure” from emergency calls.

Figures from East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) showed that in the first six hours of 2017 on Sunday, more than 1,153 emergency and urgent calls were taken, compared to nearly 1,100 over the same period in 2016.

The 14 per cent increase in calls escalated to over 3,000 calls before midnight on January 2, according to EMAS which led to it declaring a “Business Continuity Incident” where staff meal breaks were cut from 45 to 20 minutes.

An EMAS spokesman said: “At 5.30pm on January 1, EMAS declared a Business Continuity Incident in response to the high number of calls received and our ability to get to people reported to be in a potentially life-threatening condition.

“It meant that we could put into place additional actions to help provide extra support and improve services, including and in agreement with our trade union, reducing the staff meal-break time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes for the duration of the incident.

“Whilst far from ideal, this allowed us to have more colleagues and vehicles available during the unprecedented circumstances.

EMAS declared a Business Continuity Incident in response to the high number of calls received and our ability to get to people reported to be in a potentially life-threatening condition

An EMAS spokesman

“The actions taken did alleviate the pressure and, at 9pm, the Business Continuity Incident was de-escalated and normal staff meal break arrangements resumed.”

EMAS is expected to brief members of Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee about what a spokesman described as the “significant demand” on its resources which saw emergency calls soar by between 40 and 51 per cent.

Coun Chris Brewis, committee member and county councillor for Sutton Elloe, said: “The greatest concern about the problems on New Year’s Eve is that a high proportion of the events are people’s ‘self inflicted’ emergencies.

“The biggest risk is that in the instances where the emergency was caused by ‘overindulgence’, a very serious medical emergency might not have been reached as quickly as it would be normally.”

The EMAS spokesman revealed that the calls came from patients complaining of “a variety of problems, including alcohol-related illness or injury, falls, breathing problems and road traffic collisions”.

“To manage the huge increase in demand, EMAS held a strategic command cell (managerial response to an exceptional incident) throughout the night and early hours of this morning,” the spokesman said.

“EMAS also opened temporary treatment centres in several areas across the East Midlands and throughout the incident, we continued to prioritise patients.

“Those categorised as requiring a response to a potentially life-threatening incident were treated as a top priority. “However, patients who had a less serious condition were advised to seek alternative care or that they would experience a delayed response because of demand on the service.”

Andrew Ric, Chief Commissioning Officer of South Lincolnshire CCG which covers South Holland, the Deepings and Bourne, said: “The extended bank holiday and reduced primary care services available to patients may have contributed to this increase in calls to EMAS.

“However, we would reassure patients that we continue to work closely with EMAS and took every opportunity over the Christmas and New Year period to direct patients to alternatives, including their pharmacy, NHS 111, Urgent Care Centres and Minor Injuries Units.”