AMBULANCE crews and the county’s accident and emergency departments are being pushed to breaking point as demand continues to soar to unprecedented levels.
West Midlands Ambulance Service recorded its fourth busiest day on record on Saturday (December 13) dealing with 3,500 calls – a level normally only seen during the early hours of New Year’s Day.
But even though the 999 service is for essential emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes, a large proportion of calls continue to relate to minor conditions which could be dealt with by a pharmacist, Minor Injuries Unit or the NHS 111 telephone advice line.
Worcestershire’s A&E departments are also feeling the pressure. Over Saturday and Sunday 389 patients turned up at the emergency department at the Alexandra Hospital, compared to 277 the weekend before, and another 419 at the Worcestershire Royal compared to 348 over the same period.
And with many Christmas parties taking place this weekend and some people getting paid before Christmas, health bosses are fearing the worst.
Craig Cooke, assistant chief ambulance officer, said: “Many people who dial 999 could treat themselves at home or access advice from NHS 111 either online or over the phone. Equally, people should consider taking themselves to an NHS walk-in centre, pharmacist or a minor injuries unit.
“This would leave the ambulance service to deal with life threatening illness or injury such as chest pain, strokes, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and severe blood loss.”
Hospital bosses say demand continues to be unprecedented with emergency admissions through A&E up one per cent on the same period last year, attendances up nine per cent while the number of people arriving by ambulance has increased by 14 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We continue to encourage people to use all of the available health services available in the county and only attend A&E when absolutely necessary.”