The East Midlands Ambulance Service is urging people to think twice before dialling 999 after it received a record number of calls on Saturday.
The significant peak in demand saw the service busier than on New Year’s Day, making it the fifth busiest day on record and making it a real challenge for the services resources to get to people quickly.
As Christmas and New Year gets closer, demand is expected to increase. Now, more than ever, people need to use the ambulance service properly, said EMAS. It must be dialled only in an emergency, to allow paramedics to reach those who really need help.
Andy Swinburn, EMAS consultant paramedic, said: “The number of calls has risen along with the number of ambulance responses made, however, the number of people who are being taken to hospital has not increased which tells us that many people may be using 999 inappropriately.
“We are receiving many calls from people who could have seen their GP or got same-day treatment from a pharmacy, minor injuries unit, self-care or by visiting an urgent care centre.”
On Saturday, calls included a patient with knee pain, a patient who had been suffering from abdominal pain for 10 days without seeking medical help earlier, and a patient who had woken up with a dry mouth and sore throat. Despite receiving an ambulance response, none of these patients were taken to hospital.
Mr Swinburn said: “People who should call our service include those reporting an incident where someone could die if they do not get fast help, this includes people in cardiac arrest, suffering a catastrophic bleed, experiencing chest pain or who are unconscious.
“Our team of highly skilled clinicians need to be available to help people in life threatening or serious emergencies.
“Patients who really do need our help are treated as a priority, and people who are not in an emergency, will be further down the priority list as other life-threatening emergencies come in. It is also not true that arriving at A&E by ambulance will get you seen faster. Hospitals have their own assessment systems in place and a patient with a fractured toe will wait just as long as if they had made their own way to hospital.”
Please be aware of your local health services before you need them and get early advice from your local pharmacy or GP should you start to feel unwell, allowing you to start treatment and prevent your illness or injury from worsening. NHS Choices provides details of services local to you via www.nhs.uk/service-search please take the time now to get informed and be 999-wise.