As Londoners prepare to party in the capital on New Year’s Eve, the staff of the London Ambulance Service are bracing themselves for their busiest night of the year.
The Service always experiences a huge influx in emergency 999 calls, but this year, with temperatures expected to be well below freezing, an even more dramatic surge in demand is anticipated.
Assistant Director of Operations Jason Killens, who will lead the Service’s response on the night, said: “Our staff are always well-prepared for the predicted increase in calls on New Year’s Eve, but this year the predicted extreme cold weather brings added concern about the high volume of people who will be out on the streets.
“Alcohol-related calls also continue to be a huge problem for us, particularly over the festive season. In our experience, New Year’s Eve is always a difficult shift for our staff. When patients or their companions are drunk they are more likely to be aggressive towards our frontline staff who are just trying to do their job.
“You also have to add to this the fact that in the last few weeks we have experienced added pressures which are stretching our resources. December has been extremely busy and December 8 – 14 was our busiest ever week.
“The combination of the cold weather, alcohol and already high demand means we could be looking at a record year for calls on New Year’s Eve.”
The Service has an operational plan in place to combat the additional pressures it faces on New Year’s Eve. Special measures being taken include:
- The alternative response vehicle – known as the ‘Booze Bus’ will run in the West End dealing with alcohol-related calls to free up normal ambulances to deal with more life-threatening incidents.
- A team of staff will operate in the heart of the capital, treating patients at London’s celebration hotspots including Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, the West End and the banks of the Thames. This team will be assisted by St John Ambulance who will treat patients at first aid posts in key event areas.
- The number of control room staff will be doubled in order to deal with the high volume of 999 calls coming in.
- A team of clinical advisors will be available to provide over-the phone medical advice to a significant number of callers who do not require an emergency ambulance response.
Jason said: “We are doing all that we can to ensure our normal level of service is maintained throughout the evening but we would ask the public to help us by using their ambulance service wisely.
“Calling an emergency ambulance just because you or a friend are simply drunk is not appropriate. Our priority is to attend patients with life-threatening or serious illnesses or injuries, the elderly and patients with chronic conditions. Callers with minor illnesses or injuries should think about using other healthcare options, for example, their local pharmacist or walk-in centre, or NHS direct. If people need to go to hospital for non-emergency treatment, they should use a taxi or get a lift with a friend of family member. Being taken to hospital by ambulance does not necessarily mean you will be seen any quicker.”
There are also a number of things that people can do to help themselves:
- Eat before drinking to help soak up alcohol
- Have at the least the odd soft drink to keep yourself hydrated
- Try to keep track of what you’ve had
And very importantly…
- Wrap up warm
- Plan your journey home: Don’t leave it to chance – think about how you’re going to get home, and who with, before you go out.
- Keep an eye on your friends – make sure that no one gets left behind, as these are the people who we can often be called to help
Notes to editors
- For further information please contact the communications department on 020 7921 5113.
- Watch our video filmed with the central London Booze Bus at: www.londonambulance.nhs.uk/alcohol
- Last year the Service managed 1,825 calls between midnight and 4am – a 16 per cent increase on the previous year
- At the busiest point, the Service’s Emergency Operations Centre took more than 500 calls an hour, compared to an average of around 120 calls an hour.