Call 999 - my toe is hurting!

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AMBULANCE bosses are urging people not to call 999 unless there is an absolute emergency.

They spoke out after witnessing a huge surge in calls to the North West Ambulance Service, on Monday.

During a 24-hour period, the Trust recorded a 22 per cent rise and a 24 per cent rise in life-threatening ‘red’ calls, compared to the same day last year.

The unexpected increase presented health chiefs with a huge challenge and did mean that some patients had to either wait longer than they should have done for a response, or those with minor conditions were told that an ambulance could not be sent.

Among the calls received were:

a patient called to report a pain in her hand

someone had cut their toenail and reported that the toe was hurting

cut to the forehead in the morning and called 999 at 9pm to say it might need stitches

worried because they had swallowed chewing gum

a caller said they had ‘had the runs’ all day

Assistant Director of Operations Ged Blezard said: “We are better resourced than ever before. Last year we increased our frontline staff by 3.5 per cent and our call handling staff by 6.1 per cent. Even so, the rise in 999 calls is a challenge for us and when we have unexpectedly busy days, it is patients who suffer.

“I have worked in the ambulance service for 30 years, starting out on the frontline myself and I cannot understand why people call us for minor ailments which can be easily dealt with by either visiting a pharmacy, a GP or attending a walk in or minor injuries unit. The ambulance service is not a taxi or mobile first aid service. We are here for life threatening or potentially life-threatening emergencies and those who call us for minor complaints will be advised to use the right service.

NWAS answered 3,827 ‘999’ calls yesterday, compared with 3,115 on the same Monday last year and while most people do genuinely call for an emergency, there are still those who call for minor ailments that do not warrant an ambulance response, for example:

All of these callers were advised to seek advice elsewhere. Each 999 call to our control centres costs the NHS £8.47 and more importantly, can tie up a line needed by someone who urgently needs help.

Mr Blezard added: “We are here to come to the aid of people who are in urgent need but are consistently called for ailments such as these which we can’t deal with. Because of the sheer volume of calls, patients who really need us are waiting longer than they should do and our crews find this deeply frustrating.

“One of our greatest achievements is the increase in our ‘hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’ responses. Calls triaged as not life-threatening or even potentially life-threatening can be transferred to a Specialist Paramedic who can ask further questions.

“They may then request that an ambulance is despatched for treatment safely given within the home. This prevents unnecessary journeys to busy hospitals.

“Our message to the public is that if your call is not urgent, it would make more sense to seek advice elsewhere before calling.”