AMBULANCE service bosses are urging people to help them combat the “severe pressure” it is facing as winter sets in.
The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) NHS Foundation Trust says it has raised its operational status and moved staff and vehicles around in a bid to protect services for the most vulnerable patients in the region.
Calls to the NEAS are up by almost 10 per cent on last year. On Saturday the service took 1,900 calls in a 24-hour period.
There are six levels of alert in the national framework – designed to maintain a safe operational and clinical response to emergencies.
NEAS is the eighth trust out of 10 in England to declare its status at level four, with bosses saying the organisation will try to run a normal service.
But they have admitted that their ability to respond to potentially life-threatening calls in the required time period has deteriorated.
Paul Liversidge, NEAS chief operating officer, said: “We are experiencing severe pressures in responding to emergency calls and with additional pressures across the wider NHS network causing delays in ambulance turnaround times at hospitals.
“We have taken the decision to move the service to level four to protect our most vulnerable patients.”
The change means that some patient transport service vehicles will be used for emergency care front-line services and paramedic trainers and other clinical staff working in support services will return to front-line duties.
Clinically qualified managers will also be made available for front-line duties.
During winter months, the demand for NHS services increases significantly as cold weather means there are more slips, trips and injuries.
Coupled with an increase in people suffering from flu, the NEAS is asking people to be aware that many of the more common winter illnesses can be treated at home, or with advice from a pharmacist.
Mr Liversidge added: “Most normally healthy people with a winter illness do not need to see their GP, attend A&E and absolutely do not need to call 999.
“Colds, sore throats, headaches, hangovers, upset stomachs, coughs, aches, pains, and winter vomiting should all be treated at home or with the advice of your local pharmacist, with pain killers, rest and plenty of fluids.
“By doing this not only are you helping to reduce the spread of winter viruses to other vulnerable patients in NHS waiting rooms – you are also keeping appointments available for people who have serious health conditions that must see a doctor or nurse.”