Thousands more emergency calls during hottest week of the year

21 June 2017

The sweltering conditions in the capital have caused a 40 per cent increase in 999 calls for ambulances.

Patients calling for non-emergencies are likely to wait four hours for an ambulance as the service faces unprecedented demand. On Monday (19 June) London Ambulance Service call takers answered 6,613 emergency calls, compared to 4,695 the week before (an increase of 41 per cent) and this is expected to continue while the heatwave lasts. The most common complaints are people fainting, collapsing and becoming unconscious.

Peter McKenna, Deputy Director of Operations, said: “Our crews are extremely busy. On Monday we attended twenty per cent more seriously ill and injured patients than the same day last week and we’ve also been involved in a number of high profile major incidents.”

Medical Director, Dr Fenella Wrigley, added: “We see an increase in calls because people can forget to stay hydrated and the heat can exacerbate heart and breathing conditions.” We are getting calls from people who do not need an ambulance – for minor sunburn, heat rash, hay fever. These can be dealt with by a pharmacist. If you call us for something minor, you may experience a long wait.”

With mercury rising to above 30 degrees this week, paramedics have attended 300 more category A calls – which are the most serious – compared to the same day last week.
Ambulance chiefs are warning people to only call for life-threatening or serious emergencies. The exceptionally high demand on ambulances services is expected to continue for the rest of the week.

Fenella added: “Older people, the very young and people with pre-existing conditions are more at risk so please check on friends, family members and neighbours who are vulnerable.
We urge everyone out enjoying the sunshine to drink plenty of water, stay in the shade to keep cool, cover up, carry any essential medication with them and drink alcohol in moderation.” 

London Ambulance Service is urging those who need treatment for a minor condition to consider other healthcare options, such as calling NHS 111 or visiting a minor injuries unit, NHS walk-in centre or local pharmacist. Anyone needing non-emergency treatment at hospital should get a lift from a friend or relative or take a taxi.

Top tips
• During high temperatures the number of emergency calls for people thought to be unconscious increases. Please check if someone needs medical attention before calling 999 by speaking to them and checking if they are breathing
• Make sure you keep hydrated throughout the day and avoid drinking alcohol in the sun
• Older people, babies and young children and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to be affected by the heat
• Try to keep cool by staying in the shade, keeping covered up, wearing a hat and applying lots of sun cream
• Patients with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis, should carry their prescribed medication
• Stay in the shade during the hottest part of day, usually between 11am and 3pm
• For less serious illnesses and injuries consider other healthcare providers in the community such as your local pharmacy or walk in centre.

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