Help your ambulance service this winter

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is urging communities across the region to use its services responsibly this winter, as it prepares for a challenging period.

The Trust is expecting a winter period of significant and sustained demand across its 999 services – a position that is reflected across other health and care organisations locally, regionally, and nationally.

As winter approaches, flu and other respiratory illnesses are expected to rise, a drop in temperatures and ongoing pressures due to ambulance handover delays are set to compound the challenges already faced by the region’s ambulance service.

In response to this, the Trust has developed an extensive winter plan, and its leaders are asking communities to help us to help you by following the below steps:

  • Only call 999 when someone is seriously injured or ill and their life may be at risk. For example, if someone is unconscious, not breathing or is bleeding heavily.
  • If you’re waiting for an ambulance, please don’t call 999 back – unless the patient’s condition has deteriorated or you no longer need an ambulance – to ask when one will arrive, these details can’t be provided, as ambulances are sent to patients with the most life-threatening conditions first.
  • For non-life-threatening emergencies, people can access appropriate care by visiting NHS 111 online, contacting their GP or getting advice from a pharmacy.

Wayne Darch, Deputy Director of Operations at SWASFT, said: “We know this winter is going to be very challenging for us, which is why we’re urging local communities to use our services responsibly, and choose the right care for them.

“We want to be there for everyone that needs us in a medical emergency, to ensure this, we need to have crews available for patients with the most life-threatening conditions. Please only call 999 if someone is seriously injured or ill, for anything else, please contact NHS 111.

“I would like to thank our people and NHS colleagues who will be working throughout the winter to help keep us all safe and well. Should you need their support, please be kind to them, they are working hard under huge daily pressures.”

Dr Bernie Marden, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Somerset says “NHS Somerset is working extremely hard alongside our system partners including SWASFT, Somerset Council, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and the voluntary sector, to keep services running and for people to remain safe. This is especially important at a time when services are already experiencing a sustained period of pressure as we head into winter.

“While it’s important that patients who need urgent medical care continue to come forward, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases to call 999 or visit our hospitals, we are asking people to continue to support us by looking after their health including using their local community pharmacist for help with minor conditions, accessing support services around mental health and using health and care apps including the NHS App.

“We also have the Somerset’s Urgent Community Response service which provides urgent care at home within two hours of a referral being made into the service for those over 18, experiencing a crisis in their health, such a sudden deterioration in your health or a fall – call 111 and ask to be referred into the service. The service is open from 8am – 8pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year”.

For non-life-threatening emergencies, people can access appropriate care by visiting NHS 111 online, contacting their GP or getting advice from a pharmacy.