Urgent 999 calls significantly higher than in 2021

time:2023-06-10 23:38:13source:Al Jazeera author:news

The number of 'red' calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the last seven days was 62% higher than the same period last year.

Overall calls increased by just 2% between 20 and 27 December, but 586 more urgent calls were received than in 2021.

It comes after the service had its busiest day ever earlier his month.

One senior NHS boss urged people to think carefully before calling 999.

Welsh Ambulance Service figures revealed that breathing problems had been the most common cause for calls to 999 in recent days, followed by falls and chest pains.

Despite fewer patients being taken to hospital, handover delays continue to be a problem.

Ambulances have been waiting outside hospital as there are not enough available beds.

A lack of social care in the community is slowing the flow of patients through hospitals, with bed occupancy rates remaining high.

Figures from the ambulance service showed that between 20 and 27 December, 3,286 patients were taken to hospital - 16% fewer than last year.

However, the average wait to hand patients over to hospital staff was two hours and 16 minutes, more than an hour-and-a-half longer than in 2021.

After the first 15 minutes the service starts to count "hours lost".

In the last eight days there has been a 169% rise in that number - from 2,777 hours over the same period in 2021, to 7,472 hours this year.

Dr Nick Lyons, medical director at Betsi Cadwaladr health board said this year has been "exceptional".

He said "huge numbers" of patients had needed treatment for flu, Covid, RSV and Strep A.

He added that Covid cases are still having a "huge impact" on services.

Dr Lyons said the wait for hospital beds recently has often taken "far more time than I would be comfortable with".

He called on patients to only attend emergency departments "when necessary to do so and to use the 111 service" when it is appropriate.

The demand on the 111 service over the last eight days more than doubled compared to last year, however, it has only been extended to all parts of Wales since March.

More than 60,700 contacts, which include calls and messages, were received in the last week. About 17,000 calls were answered.

A spokesperson for the service said queries related to respiratory, ear/nose/throat, and viral problems were all much higher than normal.

We can become a little numb to the phrase "pressures on the NHS", but today we see perfect examples of them.

A growing proportion of the most acutely unwell patients turned to 999, while thousands of hours were "lost" in the last week as ambulance crews waited to hand patients over to hospitals.

Throw in the predicted rise in respiratory illnesses that mask-wearing had reduced, add a reduced Christmas service and worries over Strep A, and the word "pressure" feels inadequate.

The NHS 111 service will have done a lot of the heavy lifting to reduce that burden, but even that has seen a sizeable increase in demand.

In eight days, NHS 111 in Wales has had more than half the callers it saw in the whole of November.

And if previous years are an indicator, we're yet to reach the peak of this winter's pressure.

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