'Use 111' warning as 999 ambulance calls rocket across the region

People in the West Midlands are being urged to make use of 111 as demand for 999 calls increased by more than half across the region.

West Midlands Ambulance Service is facing record levels of demand
West Midlands Ambulance Service is facing record levels of demand

West Midlands Ambulance Service revealed they received a total of 40,839 emergency calls last week – making it their busiest week ever.

In the same week in 2019 - before the pandemic - the service received 25,870 calls, with the rise representing an increase of 57.9 per cent.

Demand for emergency attention has been rising throughout the summer, with the record for the daily number of 999 calls to WMAS broken twice in two weeks at the start of the month.

Extra pressure is also being added to paramedics by lengthy delays to transfer patients to hospitals.

Ambulances are spending longer than ever before waiting to handover patients to hospitals across the region, reducing the amount of emergency vehicles out and about in the West Midlands.

It has prompted calls by health chiefs for people to use the online 111 service for medical advice – rather than call 999 for non-emergency issues.

WMAS chief executive Anthony Marsh said: "We are rightly prioritising those patients that are the sickest or most severely injured; everyone who needs an ambulance will get one, but in some cases there are some patients who could access the care they need using other options other than dialling 999.

"Our ambulance crews, 999 and 111 call handlers, volunteers and the many other teams who ensure we can respond to patients as quickly as possible, are working flat out as we see increase demand for our services. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the public can play their part by using 111 online for urgent advice but calling 999 in life threatening cases

"I would also ask that patients and their loved ones also only call us back if the patient’s condition worsens, not to check what time their ambulance will arrive. We simply can’t tell you the answer and while we are answering that call it may delay us answering a call such as a cardiac arrest where every second counts."

Non-emergency issues people have called 999 about recently include sunburn, someone who had been scratched by a cat and a case of someone whose eczema was particularly itchy.

A number of factors are thought to be contributed to the rise in calls including the warmer weather, an increase in Covid-19 cases and an increase in the public spending time outside as restrictions ease.

Mr Marsh added: "This is a really tough time for ambulance staff and the volunteers who support us, who are working round the clock to deal with the huge increase in call numbers, and I’d like to pay tribute to their continued efforts to ensure patients get the care they need.

"With pressure on services still high, the public can help us to help them by using 111 online to get medical advice, and of course the most important thing we can all do at the moment is get the Covid-19 vaccine - both doses - which protects us, our families and friends and will help to reduce pressure on the NHS as well."

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