Unprecedented 999 demand as London Ambulance responds to record numbers of patients

30 November 2016

Ambulance and red bus 225London Ambulance Service attended a record number of seriously ill and injured patients in mid-November – seeing its busiest week for Category A incidents in the history of the Service.

Between Monday 14 and Sunday 20 November ambulance crews in London attended 11,322 Category A patients – a 15 per cent increase on the same period last year. This is in addition to the less seriously ill and injured patients such as people with broken bones, elderly fallers and people with back pain.

The Service is now gearing itself up for a busy winter and is expecting demand to increase even further throughout December.

Director of Operations, Paul Woodrow, said: “So far this year we have attended nearly 1,500 category A incidents every day – a ten per cent increase on the previous year – and  an average number of 3,200 incidents overall.

“To help us cope with this unprecedented demand we’ve recruited hundreds more frontline staff and have dozens more ambulance crews treating patients across London – every day.”

The Service is also:

  • Working with hospitals to try to minimise delays in handing over patients so ambulance crews are available to respond to the next patient.
  • A dedicated team is helping manage the pressure on all London hospitals by monitoring the numbers of patients taken to each one and redirecting ambulance crews to hospitals with more capacity.
  • No longer automatically dispatching to police incidents but contacting police officers at the scene and triaging the patient to see if an ambulance crew is required. On average more than 50 per cent of requests are cancelled.
  • Offering frontline staff overtime incentives – funded by reducing agency staff and freezing vacancies for non-operational staff.
  • Not sending an emergency ambulance to around 2,400 callers every week. After an initial clinical triage, these callers will either be referred to NHS 111 or given additional clinical advice over the phone by a paramedic.
  • Five nurses with specialist training in mental health work in our control room to support call handlers when dealing with complex calls about mental health patients. In one year 6,000 calls were managed by not sending an emergency ambulance.
  • Running an alcohol campaign to encourage festive party goers not to get so drunk they need the help of an ambulance crew.

Paul added: “We will continue to prioritise our ambulance crews so we get to the most seriously ill or injured patients first and patients with less serious illnesses and injuries .
“Londoners with less serious injuries and illnesses can further help us this winter by calling NHS 111, visiting their GP or pharmacist, or alternatively making their own way to hospital.”

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Notes to editors: