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Can You Spot the Difference Between An Ambulance and a Taxi?

10 December 2007

What’s the difference between an ambulance and a taxi?

Although the answer to that may seem obvious, each year many people are putting lives at risk by using the ambulance service like a taxi service to get treatment for minor injuries or illnesses or even for non-medical reasons.

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) is reminding people that 999 is for emergencies only.  This year, as in previous years, YAS is urging people to think more carefully about other options before they call for an ambulance, particularly during winter and over the festive season when demand on the service is at its peak.

As temperatures drop and celebrations begin, the Christmas and New Year period always places additional pressures on the ambulance service.  This is made worse by an increase in the number of calls to non-emergencies 

Vince Larvin, Assistant Director for YAS in North Yorkshire said: "999 is for emergencies only.  Whilst we will always respond to genuine emergencies, we often find crews are delayed by having to attend callers with non-urgent conditions.  YAS is urging people to consider other options before they call for an ambulance.  For simple medical advice there is a range of other services that could be more appropriate, for example a visit to the local pharmacy, GP or Walk-in Centre, or by calling NHS Direct (0845 4647).  Please think carefully what other options may be available to you. 
"Last year during the festive period YAS received 999 emergency calls asking for an ambulance to be sent to someone who had broken a finger nail, someone who wanted to know where they could buy cigarettes on a bank holiday and a request for a taxi home."

Some 999 calls are made because people wrongly believe if they travel to A&E in an ambulance they will jump the queue and take priority over people who have travelled to hospital themselves.  Emergency ambulances are for people who are very poorly and need time critical help because they are in a life threatening condition. 

Paramedic, David Hagyard who is based at York Ambulance Station said: “We do get quite a lot of unnecessary calls which puts extra pressure on the ambulance crews and can delay us getting to a patient who really does need urgent medical attention.  While we have the Yorkshire region well covered, our resources are not unlimited and using the ambulance service for the wrong reason could cost lives.”

Over the Christmas and New Year period please remember the difference between a taxi and an ambulance.  999 is for emergencies only.

For further media information please contact the YAS Press Office on 0845 120 0048 or by emailing pressoffice@yas.nhs.uk

Notes to Editor:

1. Examples of inappropriate calls:

  • For a taxi home    
  • To make a cold drink    
  • Patients suffering minor cuts and bruises
  • To turn off a television  
  • Broken finger nail
  • To talk to Santa    
  • Where to buy cigarettes on a bank holiday
  • Asking about opening times of GP surgeries & pharmacists

2. Examples of appropriate calls:

  • difficulty breathing
  • heavy blood loss
  • unconsciousness
  • chest pains
  • broken bones
  • a suspected heart attack
  • serious accident
  • head injuries

3. Jumping the queue at the Emergency Department at hospital is believed to be a motive for many 999 calls. However, patients are treated at hospital according to the urgency of their medical need, regardless of how they made their way to hospital.

4. NHS Direct provides 24 hour confidential health advice and information. If you are feeling ill, and are unsure what to do; would like to find out more about a condition or treatment; or need details of local health services, NHS Direct can help.  You can visit www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk (opens new window); go to NHS Direct Interactive on digital TV – simply press the ‘Interactive’ button on your Sky Digital remote control and scroll down to NHS Direct Interactive or go to Channel 108 on Freeview or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

5. The NHS offers a whole host of different services such as local pharmacist, GP surgery and NHS Walk-in Centres that could provide advice and treatment for non-emergencies.

Produced By: Corporate Communications Department