Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire came close to declaring major incident status over the Christmas period as GP surgeries closed and all NHS services, including 999 and NHS 111, experienced extremely high demand. On the bank holiday weekend of 27th and 28th December the non-emergency 111 number became overwhelmed with staff unable to answer calls and some callers were disconnected from the line.
The hospital was then forced to operate on ‘black alert’ in February. Black alert status occurs when a hospital cannot cope with the number of people coming into the accident and emergency department because not enough people are being discharged. It effectively means the hospital does not have enough bed capacity to cope.
South Western Ambulance Trust have issued the following status:
“The Trust is committed to delivering the right care in the right place at the right time, but with demand for ambulance services across the UK increasing we are reminding the public to call us only in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
“Examples of when to call 999 include choking, chest pain, stroke, serious blood loss and unconsciousness. Using the ambulance service in the correct way will help us ensure a quick response to those in genuine need.
“Alternative healthcare options for less serious conditions include; visiting your GP or local pharmacy, visiting a minor injury unit or NHS walk-in centre, or calling NHS111. You can also find a whole host of information and advice online at www.nhs.uk
“We are urging residents and visitors to of the South West to consider a number of things ahead of the four day Easter Bank Holiday weekend, including;
Do you have enough medication? If not, make sure you have sufficient supplies to get through the bank holiday period when your GP is not available.
Is your medicine cupboard well stocked? If not, with a few essentials it is amazing how many minor complaints like cuts, grazes and colds can be treated at home. Would you know where to go or who to call if you needed to access healthcare services over a bank holiday? If not, find out, it only takes a minute and there are plenty of ways to find out. Visit www.nhs.uk or call NHS 111.
Do you have a headache or upset stomach? If so, a pharmacist can provide you with a whole host of advice and recommendations to get you well soon.
Do you have a strain, sprain or bad toothache? If so a minor injury unit or urgent care centre can help you.
Do you know someone who is elderly, infirm or particularly vulnerable? If so, take a few minutes to check that they are alright and don’t need any help.
Neil Le Chevalier, Director of Operations at SWASFT, said: “All our staff out on the road and in the control rooms are working extremely hard to deliver the right care to our patients. With the onset of spring comes an influx of visitors to the region and this Easter we want to ensure that residents and tourists alike know where to access the most appropriate treatment depending on what is wrong with them.
“To assist the public in making the right decision when it comes to choosing from the range of health services on offer, we have produced a leaflet which is available to download from our website at:http://www.swast.nhs.uk/Downloads/SWASFT%20downloads/choosewell_leaflet.pdf
“There are a wide variety of healthcare services available for a range of conditions and it is really important that people choose well, especially during periods when the demand for the ambulance service is high.”
For more information about who to call and when, including when to call 999 and what happens when you do, please visit: http://www.swast.nhs.uk/patient-advice.htm
For the full story visit http://www.flicwiltshire.com/News/Health/Under-strain-Ambulance-Service-urge-public-to-stop-and-think-before-dialing-999-this-Easter-Weekend.aspx#.VRp8efnF8S7