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‘999 Is a Life-line, Use It Wisely’

As the region’s ambulance service approaches its busiest time of year, people in Yorkshire are being reminded about the importance of using their 999 service wisely. 

Every day people waste critical time and resources by calling 999 for minor ailments such as toothache, nose bleeds and cuts and bruises and, as the cold winter weather continues and the seasonal festivities kick-in, the Trust expects to see a significant increase in 999 calls which is likely to mean even more non-urgent calls.

This has prompted the Trust to urge people to consider more appropriate healthcare services for less serious illnesses and injuries such as a GP, walk-in-centre, pharmacist or NHS Direct so that the emergency ambulance service is available for those who need it most.

John Burnett has been a paramedic for 15 years. He said: “We respond to a lot of patients who have reported a serious condition only to find they merely require treatment or advice for a minor condition. These patients do require some medical attention, but should have telephoned NHS Direct for health advice, visited their local pharmacist or minor injuries unit or made their own way to the nearest emergency department.

“When you work for an emergency service which exists to save lives, it’s very frustrating when you are dealing with calls of this nature as it’s always at the back of your mind that we could be helping someone genuinely in need.” 

Keith Prior, Director of A&E Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: “While our 999 call-takers and ambulance crews are caught-up dealing with patients who have called with minor ailments, we might not be able to get to people who urgently need us and this can put the lives of other patients at risk.

“Our highly-trained staff will be working hard over the coming months to get to those who require an emergency medical response as quickly as possible and ask that people only call 999 for an ambulance in a medical emergency when someone is in need of time-critical help.

“We don’t want to deter people from calling 999 but ask that they carefully consider the variety of other healthcare services available to them before picking up the phone as someone else’s need could be greater.

Examples of when you should call 999 for an ambulance: chest pain, difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness, heavy loss of blood, severe burns and scalds, choking, fitting/convulsions, drowning, severe allergic reaction and head injury. 

Examples of inappropriate 999 calls: ear pain, toothache, stubbed toe, broken finger nail, sore throat and hangover. Please note: This is not an exhaustive list

There is a variety of healthcare services available:

  • Self care - A range of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home by combining a well-stocked medicine cabinet with plenty of rest. This is the best choice for very minor illnesses and injuries.
  • NHS Direct - NHS Direct provides confidential health advice and information by phone, through digital TV and online, 24 hours a day. It is good way for you to ensure that you get expert advice in the shortest possible time.
  • Pharmacist - Your local pharmacist can give you advice on illnesses and the medicines you need to treat them. Visit a pharmacist when you are suffering from a common health problem which does not require being seen by a nurse or doctor.
  • GP - GP surgeries provide a range of services by appointment, including medical advice, examinations, and prescriptions. In an emergency, a GP can also visit your home outside of opening hours by contacting your local surgery and following the recorded instructions.
  • NHS walk-in centre, urgent care centre, or minor injuries unit – You do not need an appointment and you will be seen by an experienced nurse or GP. These services give healthcare and advice and most are open from early in the morning until late at night. Visit one of these centres if you need medical treatment or advice which does not need a visit to A&E or a medical appointment.
  • A&E or 999 - A&E or 999 should only be used in a critical or life-threatening situation when someone is seriously ill or injured.

Produced By: Corporate Communications Department