Ambulance service pleads with public to only call 999 in an emergency as it struggles to reach patients quickly
Sussex ambulances are failing to reach all patients as quickly as it would like following a surge in demand in the first half of this year.
South east and coast ambulance service (SECAmb), which covers Kent, Surrey and Sussex, has received 11% more calls since January this year than it did in the same period last year – up 30,000 to almost 350,000.
The trust has been hit with controversy after its triage scheme was blamed for crucial delays in attending calls deemed not to be an emergency.
But it says the current strains on the service are down to huge demand, plus delays at hospitals, including the Royal Sussex in Brighton, and short staffing.
Acting Chief Executive Geraint Davies said: “The demand on the trust continues to be extremely high and, as ever, all our staff are rising to the challenge and I’m extremely proud of their commitment and effort. I’d also like to apologise that it is taking us longer than we would like and expect to respond to patients.
“I want to reassure the public that improving our performance in spite of these challenges and improving the service we provide to all our patients is my top priority.
“We are very aware that there are some significant improvements which we need to address, as was highlighted with our recent CQC inspection. We were aware and already taking action to address many of these issues and that work will continue so that we provide our patients with the service they rightly expect and deserve and so that our staff feel valued as they perform such a challenging role.”
SECAmb would also like to take this opportunity to remind the public that 999 should only be used in an emergency. Anyone faced with a medical emergency shouldn’t hesitate to call but it is urging anyone else who needs help to consider all the other options available to them. This might be dialling NHS111 for help, where staff can provide support and advice over the phone and refer patients to out-of-hours services where appropriate.
If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following you must dial 999 for an ambulance:
- Anyone who isn’t breathing or is in cardiac arrest
- Chest pain for more than 15 minutes (which may be indicative of a heart attack heart attack)
- sudden unexplained shortness of breath
- heavy bleeding
- unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained consciousness)
- traumatic back/spinal/neck pain (for example injuries from falls or other accidents, causing severe pain or possible fractures)
You should also call for an ambulance if:
- you think the patient’s illness or injury is life-threatening
- moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury