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03.01.18

‘Unprecedented’ rise in calls forces major ambulance service to raise emergency level

Extreme increases in pressure on the services run by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) have forced officials to raise its operational level.

Now at level 4 under the national Resource Escalation Action Plan (REAP), the change means the service’s response to potentially life-threatening calls has deteriorated.

NEAS said the period between Christmas and New Year had resulted in unprecedented demand for services after it received more than 40,000 NHS 111 calls and 16,000 NHS 999 calls between 23 December and 1 January.

For comparison, in the same period last year there were 1,000 fewer 999 calls and 12,000 fewer 111 calls made.

As a result, the service has increased the number clinicians in the Emergency Operations Centre; cancelled all non-emergency meetings; begun to utilise non-emergency ambulances; and asked some patients to travel with family members if possible.

NEAS chief operating officer, Paul Liversidge, said the last week had been “incredibly busy” both in the north east and across the entire NHS.

“Taking the decision to move the service to level 4 ensures we are able to protect our most vulnerable patients,” he stated. “Please help us reach those patients who need us most by using 999 wisely. Your call could potentially delay our response to someone else who might need us more.

“Please think before you pick up the phone; do you really need to go to hospital and if you do, is there anyone else who can take you? Turning up to hospital in an ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker.”

The news comes amid rising fears and increasing winter pressures, with the National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP) now advising trusts nationally to postpone elective care and outpatient appointments.

NEAS said patients should only use 999 for medical emergencies, such as chest pain, severe loss of blood and breathing difficulties, and has urged people with less serious problems to consult a GP or pharmacist or visit a nearby walk-in centre.

Top image: Peter Byrne PA Wire

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