Major ambulance trust serving seven million residents declares critical incident after ‘extreme pressures’
A major ambulance trust has declared a critical incident after “extreme pressures” forced it to prioritise patients with life-threatening injuries and illnesses.
South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) made the announcement early on Wednesday after a large volume of callouts the previous day.
It posted on Twitter: “Our staff are working extremely hard to respond to calls and manage the situation and we continue to prioritise those patients with life-threatening injuries and illnesses.
“Declaring a critical incident means we are able to focus our resources on those patients most in need and communicates the pressure we are under to our patients and health system partners.”
The service, which covers seven million residents across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Sussex and Surrey, asked the community to only call 999 in a life-threatening or serious emergency.
Mark Ainsworth, SCAS director of operations, said: “We declared a critical incident in the early hours of the morning due to extreme pressures across our services.
“This was related to the level of demand with a large volume of calls being received throughout the day and into the night and increased challenges in releasing some of our ambulances from busy acute hospitals.
“This then impacts our ability to get crews back on the road to respond to patients.
“Our staff and volunteers continue to work extremely hard to respond to calls and incidents and we continue to prioritise those patients with life-threatening injuries and illnesses.
“For some patients whose situation is not a life-threatening or serious emergency, we have been discussing their needs, providing advice and urging to them to make their own way to hospital if they do not require an emergency ambulance response.
“Declaring a critical incident means we are able to focus our resources on those patients most in need and communicates the pressures we are under to our patients and health system partners who can provide support.
“We are asking people to help us at this time by using our services wisely and also utilising other healthcare alternatives including 111.nhs.uk for urgent medical advice and guidance wherever possible and appropriate to do so.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “NHS staff remain under significant pressure on many fronts as they deal with high numbers of ambulance call outs, increasing numbers of people in hospital with Covid-19 while the latest weekly figures also show a spike in the number of staff off sick due to the virus.
“Despite this, NHS teams across the country are working hard to deliver as much routine care as possible as well as rolling out the spring booster programme, so if you have a health concern, please come forward for the care you need – and if invited get your vaccine at the earliest opportunity.”
Health chief calls for Covid-19 patients to leave hospital to free up beds
A chief medical officer has called on families to accept loved ones home from hospital even if they are Covid-19 positive as health services face a “perfect storm”.
Dr Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care System, made his plea as he reported that almost every hospital in the two counties was full.
And the number of people with Covid-19 being cared for in hospitals across the area was 650 – more than 2.5 times higher than in early January.
He also said that 2,800 staff working for local NHS organisations were off sick, with half of these absences because of Covid-19.
Dr Sandeman said: “People working across health and care in Hampshire and Isle of Wight continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to give their patients safe care.
“With staff sickness rates well above average, rising cases of Covid-19 and very high numbers of people needing treatment, we face a perfect storm – but there are some very specific ways in which people can help the frontline NHS and care teams.
“If you have a loved one who is in hospital, please help staff to help get them home quickly when they are well enough – even if they are still testing positive for Covid.
“That is enormously important to help us make beds available for those in greatest need.”
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