West Midlands Ambulance Service are asking people to think before they dial 999.
The number of people calling 999 for an ambulance is growing rapidly, with an increase of around 5% each year. Every day the west Midlands Ambulance Service receive more than 2,500 999, calls of which only around 10% are genuinely life threatening emergencies.
Many people that call the ambulance service could have used another part of the NHS as they have relatively minor conditions. The ‘Choose Well’ campaign aims to direct patients to the service best suited to their illness or condition, which could be self-care, at a pharmacy or a walk in centre.
WMAS Director of Nursing, Sandy Brown, said: “The number of calls is currently as much as 50% above what we would have expected. In these circumstances, it becomes very challenging to get to the patients that really need us.
“We have already seen a number of cases of coughs, colds and winter bugs doing the rounds. If you start to have the symptoms of flu or a heavy cold, stay at home, keep warm and take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. The ambulance service can’t help you.
“There is still a common misconception that if you get taken to hospital by ambulance, you will be seen more quickly. This is not true. All patients are triaged to see how serious their case is when they arrive at A&E.
“Crews and vehicles dealing with minor cases are not able to get to the patients with genuine life-threatening illness or injury which ultimately could put lives at risk. If it’s not a life threatening emergency, please don’t call 999.”
If you become unwell, stop to consider the most appropriate point of accessing NHS services so that you can ‘Choose Well’. This guide can help you decide:
Step 1: Keep a medicine cabinet stocked with common remedies for coughs, colds and headaches as well as items such as sticking plasters for minor wounds and grazes
Step 2: Visit your local pharmacy for over-the-counter medicines and advice.
Step 3: Call NHS Direct for advice on 0845 46 47 or log onto www.nhs.uk for a wide range of advice and information about many conditions.
Step 4: Use a ‘walk-in’ treatment centre or visit a minor injuries unit.
Step 5: Make an appointment with your own GP. An out-of-hours service is available throughout the region.
Step 6: In an emergency go to your local A&E department or call 999 for an ambulance.