Hike in calls as ambulance service prepares for winter

Even without adverse weather conditions such as snow, use of the ambulance service rises significantly at this time of year.

Over the weekend, the region’s three call centres operated by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) handled 5,205 emergency calls, nearly 300 more than the previous weekend – an increase of more than 5.5 per cent.

It was also more than 200 calls up on the same weekend last year, when ice and snow had hit the region.

The ambulance service has also seen a number of inappropriate calls made by members of the public. Although no figures are obtainable on the number of inappropriate calls made call handlers have witnessed an increase.

Examples of these include a caller who wanted a crew to carry their drunk friend up to bed, a patient who wanted a urine sample dropped off at hospital, someone whose toenail had fallen off, the parent of a child who was having a tantrum and another parent of a child who was being taunted.

A caller also phoned 999 after their relationship ended and there were several calls to people with sore throats.

Neil Storey, associate director of Emergency Operations for EEAST, said if the public ensured they kept well and kept safe, and knew when to call 999, everyone can benefit.

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“A number of factors cause a rise in calls at this time of year - winter illnesses, those managing long-term conditions who fall ill, and of course people celebrating at Christmas and New Year,” he said.

“Unfortunately, people also choose to call 999 when it’s not a life-threatening or serious situation and this impacts on the resources available for real emergencies so please think before dialling 999, it is a lifeline for those who really do need it.”

Remember, always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, for example if they have:

• chest pain

• difficulty in breathing

• unconsciousness

• severe loss of blood

• severe burns or scalds

• choking

• fitting or concussion

• drowning

• severe allergic reaction

• suspected stroke symptoms according to the FAST test: If they have facial weakness (difficulty smiling or drooping mouth or eye), arm weakness (difficulty raising arms, speech problems (difficulty speaking clearly and understanding others) then it’s time to call 999.

There are a raft of other more appropriate ways to get help, treatment and advice for non-urgent illness and accidents, for example:

• Your GP or practice nurse. You can call even when the surgery is closed and either be redirected to the GP out of hours service or given a number to contact them.

• NHS Direct on 0845 4647 will give you advice and information over the telephone 24/7

• Your local walk-in clinic, there is one in most major towns and cities, where no appointment is necessary.