The South Western Ambulance Service is urging members of the public to use NHS 111 online for medical advice as demand for 999 continues to increase.
The 111 online service offers patients advice on the best option for them to get the care they need, including getting a call back from a trained clinician or nurse, booking them an appointment in A&E or providing advice on how to help them recover.
The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust received 24,049 incidents last week – 28% higher than in the same week in 2019 before the pandemic.
Call handlers have reported some 999 calls in recent days have been for non-emergency issues such as sunburn, minor cuts, and sprains.
Patients are also being urged to only call 999 back if their condition worsens, not to check what time their ambulance will arrive.
A spokesperson for the ambulance service said: “Our frontline ambulance crews, 999 and 111 call handlers and the many other teams who ensure we can respond to patients as quickly as possible are working extremely hard as we see increase demand for our services.
“We are prioritising those patients that are most sick and severely injured and everyone who needs an ambulance will get one, however there are other and often better options for people to get the care they need.
“And as has been the case throughout the pandemic, the public can play their part by using 111 online for urgent advice, calling 999 in life threatening cases – and only calling back if their condition worsens – and by getting the Covid jab.”
The public is still being encouraged to contact 999 if they experience;
- Signs of a heart attack like a pain like a heavyweight in the centre of your chest
- Signs of stroke such as your face dropping on one side
- Difficulty breathing
- Heavy bleeding that won’t stop
- Sudden and rapid swelling of the eyes, lips, throat or tongue
A number of factors are thought to be contributing to the rise in calls, including the warmer weather and an increase in the public spending time outside as restrictions ease.
National Strategic Adviser of Ambulance Services, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Anthony Marsh, said: “This is a really tough time for ambulance staff, who are working round the clock to deal with an increased number of calls, and I’d like to pay tribute to their continued efforts to ensure patients get the care they need.
“With pressure on services still high, the public can help us to help them by using 111 online to get medical advice, and of course the most important thing we can all do at the moment is get the Covid-19 vaccine – both doses – which protects us, our families and friends and will help to reduce pressure on the NHS as well.”
People can access 111 online at 111.nhs.uk.