South Central Ambulance Service facing 'relentless pressure'

The South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) is currently under ‘relentless pressure’ with almost 2,000 emergency 999 calls being made daily.

SCAS, which provides emergency and urgent care to more than four million people across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, said demand for its 999 and 111 services is similar to what would be seen during the busy New Year period.

The number of calls to its urgent medical advice line, NHS 111, are at more than 4,500 a day – up from 3,000 a day pre-pandemic.

The rise in demand has been largely unrelated to coronavirus but the service said the increasing number of cases in the region is a concern due to the current pressure it is facing.

Mark Ainsworth, director of operations at SCAS, said: “Our activity is now well above the seasonal predicted level and is more in line with the numbers we would be seeing over the busy New Year period when dealing with winter illnesses, consequences of festivities and people who have delayed accessing healthcare over Christmas.

“We are also now at a point where staff have been flat out managing the effects of the pandemic for 18 months, so they are feeling the strain in the face of relentless pressure.”

He added capacity issues at some hospitals in the south central region is impacting the service’s ability to handover patients immediately upon arrival, hampering its capability to respond to patients quickly.

People are being urged to only call 999 for life-threatening emergencies and 111 for urgent medical advice to help alleviate the pressure.

Those seeking help for less urgent problems should use 111.nhs.uk, GPs and pharmacies.

SCAS said it is training additional staff to work in its 111 call centre and using additional resources from approved private ambulance providers to increase capacity and meet demand.

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