8:19pm Thursday 17th January 2013
With snow and icy weather forecast for the region over the next few days, Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) says please only dial 999 in an absolute emergency, as the service faces more demands with the challenging weather.
GWAS is urging the public across the region to take care in the wintery conditions and to consider other ways of receiving health care.
Neil Le Chevalier, GWAS executive officer, said: “Our focus is on providing a safe and effective 999 service in the event of snow and the inevitable increase in demand that brings.
“Our commitment remains that everyone who dials 999 with a medical emergency receives the right care in the right place at the right time. We have well-tested contingency plans in place to ensure that all patients needing face-to-face treatment from our clinicians continues to receive it.
“We have our own 4x4 vehicles that will be available to respond to emergencies in potentially difficult locations, and we also enjoy valuable and welcome support from volunteer 4x4 groups who are on standby to offer us further assistance”
While weather-related incidents – slips, traffic incidents, etc – account for some increase in activity, many of the 999 calls are for serious clinical conditions made worse by sudden cold weather, such as breathing problems and chest pains.
Mr Le Chevalier added: “People suffering those life-threatening conditions should continue to dial 999. However, for less serious conditions, we would urge people to think if they could receive the help they need elsewhere. This is probably better for them and helps us to reach those most in need of our clinical care.”
GWAS is urging the public to help by:
• Thinking if their 999 call is really necessary – the NHS-wide Choose Well campaign offers advice on other ways of receiving healthcare;
• Ensuring they have essential medication – people with ongoing medical conditions should stock up on prescription items, while it is also sensible to keep a supply of everyday items for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, cuts and grazes, etc.
“With the snowy weather forecast to remain for the next few days, we are expecting it to be a particularly busy period for us. The fact that we continue to reach every patient who needs us is down to the dedication of all our staff – our frontline clinical staff, those answering 999 calls and dispatching ambulances, and the people who ensure our vehicles are available and safe to go out on the road,” said Mr Le Chevalier.
“I would also like to thank our many partners working tirelessly to support us – our community first responders, charities and other volunteers.”
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