12 Dec 2014 - Surge in 999 to North West Ambulance Service

The North West Ambulance Service has just seen its busiest ever week since its formation in 2006, a level even above times of extreme harsh weather which always brings an increase, and is expecting this trend to continue into the festive season.

The Trust reported just short of 9,000 life-threatening or potentially life-threatening incidents and compared to last year’s year to date figure at this time;

  • 999 calls are up 5.9%
  • All incidents attended are up 5.29%
  • Red life-threatening or potentially life-threatening cases are up 9.4%

 Last week alone saw:

  • An extra 2,152 calls (full week) - 9.6% increase or an extra 307 per day.
  • An extra 1,137 red incidents - 14.5% or 162 per day

NWAS’ call centre teams are taking and dispatching more 999 calls every day than they ever have before, and the Trust is quickly moving to a daily 999 call volume of 4,000.

999 should be used when someone is seriously ill or injured and there is a possible risk to life. When it’s not as serious, the public should also consider the following:

  • take care of yourself at home
  • talk to a pharmacist
  • make an appointment with your GP
  • visit an NHS walk-in centre or Urgent Care Centre
  • if it's a genuine emergency, take yourself to the Emergency Department (arriving in an ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker).

Director of Operations, Derek Cartwright comments: “The call volume we are currently experiencing is unprecedented and our crews are working extremely hard to reach those who urgently need our help as quickly as possible.

“Because of the rise in activity, it is more important that we triage our calls thoroughly and there is no doubt that those without life-threatening or potentially life-threatening conditions will find themselves waiting sometime for an ambulance response or be advised to seek alternatives.”

The Trust has seen a rise in calls since May this year, however, now the cold weather has arrived and festive party season approaches, it is vital that the public carefully consider whether their 999 call is necessary.

NWAS has introduced a number of initiatives to ensure as many as ambulances as possible are free to attend urgent cases, including:

  • The use of volunteer services such as Mountain Rescue teams, Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance and the increased use of Community First Responders.
  • Increasing staffing levels in control rooms with seven starting this month and a further 42 before the end of March.
  • Increasing frontline resources with 68 new clinical staff ready to be out on the road later this month and a further 68 before the end of March

The rise in calls is not unique to the North West and has been replicated all across the country.

Derek adds: “We are doing all we can to continue to provide a high quality service but would be very grateful to the people of the North West if they would assist us by only calling in real emergencies and first of all consider the alternatives we have outlined here.”