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Patients are urged to think wisely before dialling 999
7:50am Friday 22nd March 2013 in News
SOUTH Western Ambulance Service (SWAST) is urging people to consider the best way to receive medical help without the need to dial 999 – as the continuing cold weather contributes to significant increases in demand.
The Trust as a whole is responding to up to 16 per cent more 999 calls than the same period last year – with the wider healthcare community across the south-west also treating higher numbers of patients.
Norma Lane, SWAST Director of Delivery, said: “In recent weeks, ambulance services nationally have seen demand around what we would expect at New Year, traditionally the busiest time of the year, with weekends proving particularly busy.
“This is partly due to the continuing cold weather which can seriously affect patients with ongoing respiratory and chest conditions.
“Our advice to these patients is to contact their GP during surgery hours to ensure they have enough prescription medicines – meaning they are less likely to dial 999.”
In the week beginning March 4, SWASFT responded to 15,691 emergency 999 calls compared to 13,512 for the corresponding week in 2012 – a 16.1 per cent increase.
The week beginning March 11 saw 15,263 responses – 12.8 per cent more than the 13,528 for the same period last year.
For patients with less serious medical needs, SWAST is advising them to consider other ways of receiving treatment and advice, particularly overnight and during weekends.
The NHS-wide Choose Well campaign offers easy alternative options, including keeping a supply of over-the-counter items at home for coughs, colds, flu and minor cuts and bruises, asking pharmacist for advice, visiting the NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk) for medical advice and information about availability of local health services or going to a walk-in centre or minor injury unit.
Norma said: “For many patients, any of these will be the best and quickest way for them to receive the help they need.
“This will also ensure that our resources are available for those who really need an ambulance response. Of course, if people believe their situation is an emergency, they should still dial 999 or attend an A&E unit.
“As a service, we remain committed to ensuring all our patients receive the medical help they need – but we are urging everyone in the community we serve to help us do that by thinking if there are better ways for them to receive treatment without the need to dial 999.”