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09 March 2018
The East of England Ambulance Service now average over 3000 calls to their 999 control rooms every day and the rising demand has dramatically increased the pressure on the emergency services. Dave Tamarro, who has worked in emergency services for over 22 years, and is currently a paramedic for East of England Ambulance Service, asks us to make the right call when we feel unwell.
I’ve seen most things you would expect a paramedic to see, from cardiac arrests to serious road traffic collisions. From my experience, I would say that 70% of 999 calls are for serious life threatening emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes or a traumatic injury however the remaining 30% of calls are those that are not emergencies, such as flu symptoms, toothache or back pain.
The huge amount of calls received each day by our controllers increase pressure not only on the ambulance service but on all aspects of the health service, from our local hospitals to the community services - especially if the 999 call is not for a genuine emergency. If an ambulance crew are attending a 999 call which is not an emergency, they no longer available to respond to an emergency call which could be a life or death situation.
I love my job and I love being able to help those who really need it quickly and effectively, but it would really help the health service if people thought for a minute - is my situation life threatening or am I dialling 999 for a speedy medical response?
If you think you might need to visit A&E or call an ambulance but are not sure if that is the right thing to do, you can call NHS111 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The NHS111 service provides patients with medical advice from a trained clinician, who can then ring an ambulance if they feel that you are in need of one. Calling NHS111 also enables you to get access to local out of hours GP and dental appointments.
Instead of immediately ringing 999, going to your local A&E department or going to your GP have a think about what alternative options are available. For example, your local community pharmacists are trained to help you manage the symptoms of many different minor illnesses, give medical advice and are quite often open late or at weekends.
So look after your NHS by making the right call. If you need help but it's not an emergency, call NHS 111 for immediate help and advice, only call 999 in an emergency.