Ambulance crews feeling the strain

AMBULANCE crews are finding themselves placed under increasing pressure as the number of people with relatively minor problems calling 999 rockets.

Jonathan Barnes

AMBULANCE crews are finding themselves placed under increasing pressure as the number of people with relatively minor problems calling 999 rockets.

New figures released by the East of England Ambulance Service showed calls for an emergency response had dramatically increased in the past five years.

In June 2003, ambulance crews in the east of England responded to 35,145 emergency calls, but by last month that number had risen by more than 10,000 to 46,090 - up more than 30%.


You may also want to watch:


Rob Lawrence, chief locality officer for the ambulance service, said that while the number of people with serious problems had climbed in line with an increasing and ageing population, the more significant rise was in people with more minor problems.

“We are seeing more and more people calling 999 who could get more appropriate treatment elsewhere in the NHS,” he said. “Were there really 10,000 more people in need of an emergency ambulance last month than the June of five years ago?

Most Read

“We don't for one moment want to put off people with genuine emergencies from calling us, but with calls seemingly on a never-ending upward curve we need people to think about whether they really need an ambulance before making the call.

“This is particularly relevant over the summer. Our crews and responders are striving to meet the most challenging ambulance response times in the world, and we need the public on our side to help us reach those most in need of our help as quickly as possible.”

Extra investment in the ambulance service from the primary care trusts - which commission the service across Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Norfolk - has seen average response times reduced from eight minutes and 42 seconds in March to seven minutes and 28 seconds last month.

How you can avoid calling an ambulance:

The East of England Ambulance Service said options available if patients cannot treat themselves include calling NHS Direct on 0845 4647, or the local GP out-of-hours service (usually via your local GP surgery number).

Both of these telephone-based services will divert patients to 999 if an ambulance is required.

NHS walk-in centres, pharmacies and local minor injuries units can also help.

However it said people should not hesitate to ring 999 or visit A&E immediately for any of the following problems: suspected heart attack, chest pains, if someone is unconscious, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, deep wounds or head injuries and difficulty breathing.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter