England

Ambulance call-outs on increase in West Midlands

West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) says it is having to deal with an unexplained 50% increases in the number of 999 calls.

WMAS said more than 2,500 999 calls were received each day, but only 10% involve life-threatening emergencies.

Non-emergency calls were making it hard for ambulances to get to patients in need of swift attention.

A spokesperson for WMAS said it was not sure why the "spikes" in calls had occurred over the last three weeks.

University Hospital in Coventry has also noted a rise in patients attending its A&E department in October.

WMAS says its role is to attend cases such as "choking, chest pains, serious blood loss, stroke, or if the patient is unconscious" and advises pharmacies or walk-in centres be used for patients with with minor conditions.

Recent cold weather had brought about more cases involving breathing difficulties and chest pains and WMAS is expecting cold and flu symptoms to have an effect on calls over the coming months.

'Common misconception'

In anticipation of this, WMAS has launched its Choose Well campaign to ensure people "consider what is the most appropriate point of accessing NHS services".

WMAS director of nursing, Sandy Brown, said: "We are currently seeing large spikes in demand with the number of calls as much as 50% above what we would have expected.

"If you start to have the symptoms of flu or a heavy cold, stay at home, keep warm and take plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. The ambulance service can't help you.

"There is still a common misconception that if you get taken to hospital by ambulance, you will be seen more quickly. This is simply untrue.

"All patients are triaged to see how serious their case is when they arrive at A&E. If everybody understood this, there would be many fewer 999 calls."

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