New Year's Eve: Paramedics struggling to deal with huge number of calls to 999

People have been advised to think carefully about whether any incident is really an emergency that requires a 999 call

Paramedics in some areas are struggling to deal with the huge number of calls on New Year’s Eve.

The high demand is leading some people to be left waiting much longer because crews are being delayed in responding to 999 calls, according to the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (Secamb).

Managers are focusing on life-threatening issues in an attempt to ensure resources aren’t stressed. But they have also asked people to make sure that they only call 999 for an ambulance if they really need it, to ensure that the service doesn’t become overstretched.

Secamb's on-call gold incident commander Richard Webber said: "We are already receiving a high volume of emergency 999 calls, especially across Kent and are struggling to reach many of these in a timely manner.

"Our staff are already working extremely hard but this does mean that for certain emergencies, some patients can expect to wait longer for an ambulance as we focus our efforts on responding to calls which are deemed life-threatening."

During the festive period, Secamb saw a 10 per cent rise in demand compared to last year. From 7pm on Christmas Eve to 11pm on Boxing Day, it responded to 4,840 emergency calls.

Last year, between 10pm on New Year's Eve and 4am on January 1, the Trust handled 1,135 calls - an average of more than three 999 calls a minute - and this year is expected to be even higher.

Mr Webber urged people to only dial 999 in a "serious emergency" and asked them to consider other options, including the NHS 111 service.

In part because of Secamb’s high number of calls it is in the process of changing the way that it deals with 999 calls. It has also been placed into special measures since September, and the change is part of its recovery plan.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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