Stretched paramedics issue 999 plea

ANGRY ambulance bosses in East Anglia have told people to think twice before dialling 999 after they were overwhelmed by more than 7,000 calls over the weekend.

ANGRY ambulance bosses in East Anglia have told people to think twice before dialling 999 after they were overwhelmed by more than 7,000 calls over the weekend.

The calls, which came in at a rate of nearly 100 per-hour between Friday and Sunday, included many which were not about serious or life-threatening incidents.

In Essex there were 2,560 incidents phoned in, with the county having its busiest day of the year on Sunday - 906 calls compared to 774 the previous week.

In Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire areas there were 2,657 calls, whilst Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire dealt with 1959.

The East of England Ambulance Service has warned that an ambulance going out to a sprained ankle could have a knock-on effect on more serious cases such as heart-attack victims.

Bosses have been left frustrated by the busy weekend as they had only just issued an appeal calling for 999 to be used responsibly.

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Dr John Scott, the service's medical director, said: “We received 7,176 calls across the region during the three-day period from Friday to Sunday.

“This is despite recent appeals for people to consider first seeking guidance from NHS Direct or their own GP unless they have a serious injury or illness, so we are having to reiterate our message now in even stronger terms - 'please do not call unless there is a serious or life-threatening emergency'.

“Of course people with genuine emergencies should not hesitate for a moment to call us, because that's we're here for.

“However, with the numbers of calls seeming to increase all the time, we need people to think about whether they really need an ambulance before dialling 999.”

The trust's chief operating officer Sandy Spencer backed the call and asked for the public to be more responsible.

“We have a fixed number of resources, and if an ambulance is called to someone who has, for example, a sprained ankle, that means there is one ambulance fewer that can to go to a patient who is having a heart attack.

“Our crews and responders are striving to deliver the best possible care to patients, and we need public support to help us reach those most in need of our help as quickly as possible,” she said.

Ambulance bosses recently revealed the shocking misuse of the service, saying toothaches, coughs, colds and sore throats were just some of the “problems” people dialled 999 for.

In October crews attended 6,446 calls where the patient was cared for at home and not taken to hospital - an increase of about 600 calls more than September and 800 more than for the same time last year.

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