COLD weather has led to an ‘astonishing’ surge in calls to West Midlands Ambulance Service.
Over the festive weekend – Boxing Day to last Sunday (December 28) – the service received 9,968 emergency calls, up more than 12 per cent on the same time last year.
Saturday, December 27 was the sixth busiest day on record but some areas recorded what ambulance bosses have called ‘staggering’ peaks in demand.
The Coventry and Warwickshire area saw call levels rise by more than 34 per cent from 381 on the same day in 2013 to 511.
In Worcestershire 854 emergency calls were received during the three day period, but the county’s busiest day was Boxing Day which saw an 8.3 per cent increase compared with Boxing Day 2013.
However Worcestershire was the only area in the region where demand dropped on one of the three days – falling by almost 6 per cent last Sunday.
The colder weather is partially driving the increase as it triggers more calls from people suffering with chest conditions and breathing difficulties but ambulance chiefs say the spike was also connected to people beginning to access health services again after the festive break.
Anthony Marsh, chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “Firstly, I would like to thank my staff for the astonishing effort they have put in, not only over the last few days, but over the last few weeks. No fewer than 10 of the 20 busiest days we have ever had have come in December 2014.
“Having been out and about on the road and in our control rooms I know the pressures that the staff have been under and it is a mark of their dedication that they continue to provide such a high quality of care in very difficult circumstances.”
Hospitals are also feeling the pressure although figures for the Christmas period will not be released until the New Year. However during the first two weeks of December an extra 1,353 turned up at Worcestershire’s A&E departments and minor injuries units compared with the same period in 2013, a rise of almost 25 per cent.
A total of 843 people waited more than four hours to be seen – up more than 75 per cent on 2013 – although admissions were down from 2,139 to 1,889.
Health bosses are urging the public to ensure they only call 999 or attend A&E in a genuine emergency, such as heavy blood loss, chest pain, loss of consciousness or broken bones.
For conditions which are urgent but not an emergency call NHS 111.