Think before calling 999 for an ambulance this winter to ease pressure and help the seriously ill and injured

Residents across Sussex are being asked to use 999 wisely during the colder temperatures and festive period to reduce pressure on the ambulance service.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 11:10 am
Only call 999 in an emergency

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is reminding the public to think before dialling 999.

As the service continually prioritises its response to its most seriously ill and injured patients, just a small percentage of calls fall into the highest category of call requiring an immediate ambulance response.

More than a third of calls (36 per cent) SECAmb responded to in the last 12 months (December 1 2019 – November 30 2020) were triaged as lower priority Category three responses (246,461), which ambulance services aim to respond to within two hours. Just seven per cent (47,514) fell into the most serious life-threatening category which require an average seven minute response.

Each day staff in its control rooms receive dozens of calls for ambulance responses which are still within the timeframe set out by the 999 call taker.

People are asked to listen carefully to the call taker and only call back if a patient’s condition worsens. This helps ensure emergency operations centre staff are as available as possible to answer new 999 calls and arrange an appropriate responses.

Emma Williams, SECAmb deputy director of operations, said: “We typically handle in excess of 2,000 999 calls each day and behind each call is someone who needs help.

“The help they need and the timeframe in which they need that help varies and we, of course, must prioritise our response to our most seriously ill and injured patients.

“We will respond to all patients as quickly as possible but it is a small percentage of our calls which result in an immediate ambulance response.

“We ask that people follow the instructions of our call takers as our emergency operations centre staff look to arrange the appropriate response.

“We also know that, in order to protect our response to our most serious calls, there will be times when lower priority calls wait longer than we would like. If this is the case we will make welfare calls to patients waiting for a response to check their condition hasn’t worsened.

“This year has of course been extremely challenging for the ambulance service. I have no doubt that the dedication and professionalism shown by our staff and volunteers will continue into the colder winter months and I urge the public to do everything they can to support us to manager our demand.”

SECAmb has published its call categories to help people better understand the way it operates.

Category one – life threatening calls. The most serious category, including patients not breathing. We aim to respond in a mean average of seven minutes.

Category two – emergency calls. We aim to respond to these calls in a mean average of 18 minutes. Stroke patients will fall into this category.

Category three – urgent calls. Patients may be treated by ambulance staff in their own home. We aim to respond within two hours 90% of the time.

Category four – less urgent calls Patients may be given advice over the phone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. We aim to respond to this category nine out of 10 times within three hours.

SECAmb has created a winter check list which includes restocking medicine cabinets ahead of the festive season, booking flu vaccines for those in vulnerable and high-risk groups, ensuring there are no trip hazards in the homes of elderly people and replacing slippers that may have lost their grip.

Click for more NHS information about keeping well this winter