Londoners asked to help ease pressure on ambulance service

People who call London Ambulance Service with minor injuries or illnesses will not be sent an emergency ambulance as it tries to reach its most seriously ill and injured patients within eight minutes.

While the Service continues to prioritise its response to patients in life-threatening conditions, other people, with less serious injuries and illnesses, should call NHS 111 or make their own way to an urgent care centre, pharmacy or GP.

Chief Executive Ann Radmore said: “Every year demand increases and now, in addition to this, there is a shortage of paramedics in the UK which is making it difficult for us to recruit.

“While we are taking steps to tackle these issues, we’re asking Londoners to help us and help ease the pressure on our front line staff.”

To help tackle the increasing demand and shortage of staff, the Service is taking steps including:

  • a national and international recruitment campaign
  • changing the way it responds to 999 calls
  • and working with staff to see what more can be done to improve their working lives.

On average, the Service receives over 35,000 emergency calls a week. From now on it will not send an emergency ambulance to 3,500 callers. 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.

Deputy Medical Director Dr Fenella Wrigley said: “People with twisted ankles, fingers trapped in doors or acute dental pain, do not need an emergency ambulance response. And patients with minor illnesses – who do need to go to hospital but are not in a life-threatening condition – will wait longer.”

The Service is also reviewing the number of ambulance vehicles sent to each incident and is recruiting hundreds of extra frontline staff. 

Ann said: “Our paramedics are highly skilled clinicians much in demand by other parts of the NHS. It’s no surprise that many of them choose to leave London and work in other parts of the health service where they can sometimes be paid more and be under less pressure.

“However we are doing lots to encourage them to stay such as improving their career and educational opportunities and working with our partners to find solutions to the high cost of living in London.

“Londoners can help us, our staff and themselves, if they only call us in a genuine emergency, make sure they are registered with a GP, and use NHS 111 for advice on other local NHS services.”

– Ends –

Notes to editors:

  • Since April 2014 the Service has reached 64 per cent of category A patients in eight minutes. The national target is 75 per cent.
  • Between 1 April 2014 and 11 September 2014 we received 853,516 emergency calls, compared to 775,313 over the same period last year. This is an increase of 10.9 per cent.
  • For further information about the London Ambulance Service or this news release please contact the communications department on 020 7783 2286.
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