AN ambulance service is warning of further pressure after taking almost 2,000 999 calls in a single day.

The North East Ambulance Service says it is under unprecedented pressure.

It has issued an urgent appeal to members of the public to only call its services in a life-threatening emergency.

Chief Executive Helen Ray said: “The pressure we and our colleagues across the region currently find ourselves in is unprecedented.

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“Rest assured, if you need us urgently, we will be there for you. We have some seriously unwell patients who desperately need our help and will continue to prioritise those first, but that will mean that those patients who don’t have a life-threatening condition will wait longer than we would like.”

Last Monday, NEAS says it received more than 4,000 NHS 111 calls and nearly 2,000 999 calls.

That was 361 more 999 calls than in the same day in 2020 and 387 more 111 calls.

It has been under “significant sustained pressure” for several months now, a spokesperson added, and has remained at its highest escalation level since July.

The service said the pressure was compounded by those at hospitals in the region, , which leads to delays for ambulance crews in handing over patients.

A record 2,367 hours were lost to hospital handovers across the region in September and the longest handover being four hours and 42 minutes, compared to just under four hours in August.

So far, more than 1,500 operational hours have been lost to handover delays in October.

Ms Ray said: “Our staff are working flat out to ensure we keep our patients safe, and I can’t thank them enough for their hard work.

"It’s testament to them that we were the fastest performing ambulance service for our most seriously unwell patients and performed better than the national average for all other response standards in September, despite the challenges we’re facing.

“But we also need your help by keeping our lines free for those who really need us.

“I know it can be really difficult when you need help and you’re not sure where to turn but please try your GP, your pharmacist or dentist first as well as making use of the 111 online service, which can often provide you with the help you require.”

Covid continues to impact on the service, with longer turnaround times between patients due to vehicle cleaning and changing personal protective equipment measures which remain in place.

NEAS' advice to patients 

The public should continue to contact 999 if they experience:

  • A cardiac arrest where the patient is unconscious and not breathing
  • Signs of a heart attack e.g. a pain like a heavy weight in the centre of your chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Signs of stroke such as the face drooping on one side or weakness on one side
  • Heavy bleeding that won’t stop
  • Seizures
  • Sudden and rapid swelling of the eyes, lips, throat or tongue

To help cope with these pressures and ensure the people who need care the most can get it, members of the public are asked to:

  • Think GP, NHS 111 online or pharmacy first before coming to A&E or calling 111 or 999
  • Get your vaccination or booster if you are eligible.
  • Understand that you may need to wait longer than usual.
  • If you are visiting any healthcare settings, please remember to continue wearing a face covering, use our handwashing and alcohol gel facilities.
  • Be kind – all our staff are doing their best to look after you, please be patient.

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