AMBULANCE services in Stafford are under “severe pressure” after unprecedented levels of 999 calls forced health bosses to execute preventative measures.
West Midlands Ambulance Trust today confirmed they had formally escalated to the Resourcing Escalatory Action Plan (REAP) four – just two shy of the maximum level six, at which point there is a risk of “potential failure of service.”
A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Whilst the Trust is experienced in dealing with such high demand especially within the winter months, it is unusual to see such high levels of activity in September and October.
“Analysis of the calls suggests a rise in the number of patients with serious illness and other conditions.”
She said to ensure patients continue to receive the best possible care the trust had put forward a number of special measures including placing senior officers in a number of command and control cells, the temporary cancellation of training and non-essential meetings and the offer of overtime to all staff willing to work additional hours.
“Trust staff are also working hard with colleagues at hospitals around the region to ensure that patients receive the best treatment but the public must play their part in the process,” she said. “The whole of the NHS is under extreme pressure and the public must be sensible when accessing healthcare, including emergency services.”
She urged members of the public to consider the severity of their condition before calling 999, stressing the service was for life-threatening conditions and emergencies, such as choking, chest pain, stroke, serious blood loss or a state of unconsciousness.
“If our crews and vehicles are called inappropriately, it could result in delays in getting to patients with genuine life-threatening illness or injury.”
She added that the service often received calls from patients that could be treated elsewhere, for instance by calling NHS Direct, visiting the local pharmacy or walk-in centre or calling their GP out of hours service.
A spokesman for the Staffordshire Cluster of PCTs said current levels of use of both the ambulance service and A&E was “unprecedented” and that people calling 999 with minor injuries was causing issues.