A plea for public support has been made by South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) over what, as ever, will be a busy long Easter weekend for its staff.
The Trust always prepares for busy periods such as Easter and other public holidays and has plans in place to manage an expected increase in demand but is reminding the public that 999 should only be dialled in an emergency.
Last year between Good Friday and Easter Monday SECAmb received more than 9,500 999 calls across Kent, Surrey and Sussex – an increase of around 5% on the previous weekend (22-25 March 2013).
While ambulance crews will always be sent to the most serious emergencies, close to 1,000 of these calls were able to be dealt with by clinical advice being provided to callers over the phone.
NHS 111 centre staff are also preparing for busy Easter period. The service, run by SECAmb in partnership with Harmoni across the region, which was launched just over 12 months ago has provided help and advice to close to a million callers since March 2013.
With the potential for the fine weather currently being experienced across the region to continue over the weekend, SECAmb is also urging people to enjoy but be sensible in the sun.
SECAmb Paramedic and Senior Contingency Planning and Resilience manager Steve Carpenter said: “We’re expecting the Easter Bank Holiday weekend to be busy for all our staff. This is often the case with any Bank Holiday weekend but with Easter stretching over four days we know that all our staff will face an increase in demand.
“Obviously a lot of people will be out and about enjoying the weekend and even more so should the fine weather continue. We’d ask that they be sensible and take care of themselves and others.
“We plan ahead for this increase and don’t want people to hesitate in dialling 999 in an emergency but we would urge anyone who isn’t faced with an emergency to consider all the other options available to them.
“While our staff at the NHS 111 service are also expecting to see a big increase in calls compared to a typical weekend they are able to offer advice to callers who need medical advice but not in an emergency. NHS 111 staff can arrange support and advice over the phone and refer patients to out-of-hours services where appropriate.
“Pharmacies may be not be operating their usual hours but they can also be a useful place where members of the public can receive expert advice on routine illnesses such as coughs and colds.”