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London Ambulance Service sees big rise in 999 calls after England v Algeria clash

Calls to the London Ambulance Service peaked at 40 per cent above normal, after England’s World Cup game against Algeria on Friday (18 June).

Between midnight on Friday and 1am on Saturday morning, staff in the Service’s control room at Waterloo took 288 emergency calls – almost five every minute – compared to an average of 206 for the same one-hour period. That is potentially an extra 82 ambulance journeys across London in just one hour.

Deputy Director of Operations Jason Killens said: “Friday night into the early hours of Saturday morning was extremely busy and we were seeing call rates well above what we’d normally expect – our control room staff were handling five calls every minute.

“One of the reasons for the increase in 999 calls was because a lot of people were out watching the England game and drinking too much alcohol without eating or taking on soft drinks. Because of that they got too drunk, dehydrated or ended up passing out. The ambulance service is then left to pick up the pieces.

“We need to make sure that our staff are free to respond to patients who really need our help – people with serious or life-threatening injuries or illnesses, not people who’ve overdone it on a night out. Every minute we spend looking after someone who’s had too much to drink is a minute we could have spent looking after someone who’s seriously ill or injured.”

The Service is now gearing up for Wednesday’s clash between England and Slovenia and is urging people to stay sensible if they’re out enjoying the game.

Anyone with a more minor illness or injury – or who wakes up after a big game a little worse for wear – is being asked to consider other healthcare options including:

  • Your local pharmacist or NHS walk-in centre
  • NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
  • Or you can make your own way to hospital – going in an ambulance does not mean you will get seen any quicker.

To help deal with the increase in demand during the World Cup, the Service has a number of initiatives in place including:

  • Extra staff on duty, both on ambulances and in our Waterloo control room
  • Up to four alternative response vehicles – known as ‘booze buses’ – operating in central London. The vehicles are crewed by three members of staff and can attend people who are drunk and take a group of patients to hospital in one trip, rather than sending multiple ambulances
  • A team of ambulance staff based at Liverpool Street station working with St John Ambulance volunteers during England’s midweek games to treat patients with minor illnesses and injuries, with vehicles from both organisations assigned to deal with alcohol-related emergency calls in the City.

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Notes for editors

Call volume from 10pm on Friday 18 June to 3am on Saturday 19 June
Hour 999 calls Average calls Increase (%)