The London Ambulance Service has plans in place to ensure it can maintain a safe service to Londoners as it, and the rest of the NHS, gear up for an extremely busy winter.
Director of Operations Jason Killens said:
“To enable us provide a safe service to Londoners through this winter, we will be prioritising our response to our most critically ill and injured patients.
“This will mean that those people who call about minor conditions like cut fingers, colds and toothache won’t get an ambulance and they will be advised to go to their GP or pharmacist or call 111 for help.”
The Service is expecting the number of life-threatening 999 calls over the winter period to go up from around 1,200 a day to 1,800 a day. To ensure these most seriously ill and injured patients get treatment quickly, lower priority patients will be referred to other health providers for help where it is clinically safe for this to happen.
Jason added: “Those who really need our help will receive it, and we will continue to respond to all calls to children under two and anyone over 70, whatever their condition.
“By not responding to the lowest priority calls, we will save up to 150 ambulance responses a day to attend emergency calls. This is something we already do at times of peak demand, one of those being New Year’s Eve when we are extremely busy.”
Other measures within the Service’s winter plan include not sending an automatic response to police and healthcare professional requests.
On the Service’s busiest days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), police requests to attend lower priority calls – which are received through a computer link – will be reassessed and prioritised based on the patient’s condition. As a result it is anticipated that ambulance crews will go to about a third less of these calls – somewhere in the region of 100 fewer calls a day.
Similarly at peak times, all calls received from health professionals will be reviewed, and where appropriate alternative transport options will be suggested for patients.
The Service is to receive an additional £2.7m to fund a range of initiatives to ease pressure on the wider NHS in London. The money which forms part of the £55m allocated to London’s most challenged hospitals will be used to operate ‘booze buses’ and alcohol recovery centres, as well as additional cycle and motorcycle responder teams. A dedicated team is also helping to manage the pressure on all London hospitals by monitoring the numbers of patients taken to each hospital and requesting ambulance crews travel to a different emergency department when a particular hospital starts to become too busy.
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