Exceptional demand on London Ambulance Service continues

Londoners are being urged take care in the cold and to use their ambulance service wisely, with the London Ambulance Service facing another day of exceptional demand.

Yesterday (Monday 21 December) the Service took almost 6,000 calls and attended 2,978 incidents, the same level of demand we’d expect on New Year’s Eve. A normal day would see us handling around 4,000 calls. At some points yesterday, staff in our control room were taking more than 400 calls an hour.

Over the weekend, ambulance staff responded to 6,436 emergency incidents across the capital, making it the second busiest in our history with an increase of nearly 12 per cent on the average for the previous four weekends.

The cold and icy conditions have seen an increase in people dialling 999 following trips, slips or falls on slippery pavements, while many existing conditions are being made worse, such as asthma.

Deputy Director of Operations Jason Killens said: “We’re asking people to think carefully before dialling 999. Four hundred calls an hour is something we’d only expect on the busiest days of the year, like New Year’s Eve. We’d urge people to use their ambulance service very wisely so we can get to the most serious or life-threatening patients as quickly as possible.

“Some roads and pavements are icy and very slippery, so people should be particularly careful when they’re out and about. Dress appropriately, wrap up warm and remember that the 999 system is there for emergencies.

“People should plan ahead over the next few days, and as well as stocking up on food for the festive period they should also make sure they have enough medicines in the house, especially prescriptions because many GP surgeries and pharmacists will be closed over Christmas.

“Anyone with minor illness or injury should think about using other healthcare options, such as their local pharmacist or NHS walk-in centre, or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. Or if people need to go to hospital for non-emergency treatment, they should consider making their own way there – going in an ambulance does not mean you will get seen any quicker.”

With the demand on the Service expected to remain high as the cold weather continues over the Christmas period, there are a number of things that people can do to help themselves:

Dress appropriately and wear sensible footwear
Wrap up warm to help keep the cold at bay
Stock up on medicine, especially if you have a pre existing condition such as asthma

– Ends –

Notes for editors

This weekend (19 and 20 December) was the second busiest ever for the Service. The busiest weekend was 30 and 31 December 2000.

On Monday (21 December) the Service received 5,982 calls and attended 2,978 incidents. This compares to 3,573 calls and 2,656 incidents on New Year’s Eve last year and 6,141 calls and 3,351 incidents on New Year’s Day (1 January 2009).