Ambulance service plea: Think before you dial

THURROCK residents are being urged to support the ambulance service as it faces significant pressure with challenging weather and a surge in calls over particularly busy weekend.

With a significant increase in demand across Thurrock, the East of England Ambulance Service Trust is appealing to those considering calling 999 for an ambulance to only do so if it’s really necessary.

Snow and icy conditions and a big rise in 999 calls across the whole region is presenting challenges but Bedford, Essex and Hertfordshire are worst hit with the weather.

Because of the road conditions some vehicles are experiencing difficulty en route to patients and, along with the rise in call demand there have been issues in getting to some 999 calls so that some non-emergency cases might have to be prepared to be patient and wait a little longer than usual.

We are of course continuing to prioritise the most urgent calls, hence the advice to dial 999 only in an emergency and to make use of other NHS resources for other conditions.

Questions to ask before dialling 999 are for example, whether the patient is experiencing:

* chest pain
* difficulty in breathing
* unconsciousness
* severe loss of blood
* severe burns or scalds
* choking
* fitting or concussion
* drowning
* a severe allergic reaction
* stroke symptoms(Do the FAST test – Facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped? Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms? Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Time to call 999.)

If not, patients are being asked to consider whether a condition or injury can be dealt with by a wealth of other local NHS services.

Neil Storey, associate director for emergency operations at the Trust, said: “We work hard to ensure we deliver as normal service as possible and continually improve our response to those who are seriously ill or in life threatening situations, whatever the circumstances.

“But we must stress that people who do not need emergency treatment must be prepared to be patient. If your injury or illness can managed in another way it means our response to patients who really do need us – those in a life-threatening of very serious condition – can remain our top priority.”

Where to get treatment and advice for non urgent illness and accident:

* 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
* Visit you GP led health centre, a local walk in clinic, there is one in most major towns and cities, where no appointment is necessary.

Remember, always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

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