THE region’s ambulance service is gearing up for its busiest time of the year as the Christmas holidays begin.
Last December, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) received 102,238 emergency calls – an increase of 13 per cent from the previous year.
The Trust is urging the public to take steps to avoid an unnecessary 999 call this festive season and to only call if it is a life-threatening emergency. All calls will be prioritised to ensure that those with immediately life-threatened conditions continue to receive the fastest response.
December was EEAST’s busiest month of winter and on Christmas Day 2016, the ambulance service received more than 3,200 calls. Boxing Day was one of the busiest days of winter with almost 3,500 calls.
Kevin Brown, Director of Service Delivery for EEAST, said: “This is an extremely busy time of the year for us and all of our staff are working hard to do their best for patients.
“Calling 999 is for a real emergency and should be a last resort. However, many people are calling us when they should be asking for help and medical advice from their pharmacy, walk-in centre, GP, NHS 111 or from NHS Choices website. Where an A&E visit is necessary but not life threatening or essential, consider other alternatives to an ambulance.
“This time of year we experience an increase in alcohol-related call-outs, which adds extra pressure on the service. If you are going to celebrate the Christmas holidays, please drink responsibly, look out for your friends, and plan your journey home in advance. Don’t let your night end up in the back of an ambulance.”
Patients can help themselves by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. This list, recommended by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, will help you deal with most minor ailments: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Pharmacy/Pages/Yourmedicinecabinet.aspx
A list of pharmacy opening hours over Christmas and New Year can also be found here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/mids-east/our-work/pharm-info/
County breakdown of calls to EEAST last December (compared with December 2015)
Bedfordshire – 10,136 (9,284)
Cambridgeshire – 13,892 (12,485)
Essex – 33,395 (28,068)
Hertfordshire – 17,342 (15,517)
Norfolk – 15,377 (14,074)
Suffolk – 12,096 (10,936)