South West ambulance demand rises 38% over Christmas

A South Western Ambulance Service operator on the phone
Image caption South Western Ambulance Service dealt with 17,463 incidents over the phone across the festive season

An ambulance service which came close to declaring "major incident" status after Christmas was handling up to 38% more incidents, new figures show.

The South Western Ambulance Service described "extremely high" demand on its 999 and 111 numbers on 27-28 December.

On that Saturday alone it dealt with 3,205 incidents - 883 more than on the same Saturday in 2013.

The activity will be reviewed to help future planning, the service said.

Image caption The Trust came close to declaring 'major incident' status on 28 December
Image caption At the peak - on 27 December - 38% more incidents were dealt with on the phone than the same date in 2013

Across Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and the weekend in-between, the service dealt with a total of 17,463 incidents over the phone.

During the same six days a year ago the figure was 22% lower, at 14,262.

The service was on standby to declare a major incident - defined as something which may disrupt services or require special arrangements to be implemented by health staff - on Saturday 27 December, but was back to normal within days, it said.

"Demand has steadily increased throughout the year for all NHS services," said a spokeswoman for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

"We know Christmas and New Year are the busiest periods of the year and robust plans are put in place to ensure we can manage that demand.

"This year the NHS also saw an even greater surge in demand during the weekend between Christmas and New Year.

"As always, we will be reviewing this activity to ensure we can continue to plan and respond to the needs of our patients."

The ambulance service covers Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bath and North Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and the Isles of Scilly.

'Major incident' definition for local NHS organisations

"Any occurrence that presents serious threat to the health of the community, disruption to the service or causes (or is likely to cause) such numbers or types of casualties as to require special arrangements to be implemented by hospitals, ambulance trusts or other acute or community provider organisations."

Source: NHS England Commissioning Board

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