Ambulance bosses are advising the public how they can help prevent themselves and loved ones from needing to call 999 during this white winter.
Neil Storey, director of operations for the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST), said severe weather creates an increased demand across the NHS but, while some of that was unavoidable, taking simple measures reduced the risk of a medical emergency.
He advised people to keep warm, keep well, be prepared and avoid unnecessary outings.
“While we are prepared for bad weather with tried and tested plans to manage it, inevitably it challenges emergency service resources and can affect response times if only because it is more difficult to get around.
“But simple things make a big difference to people, such as keeping yourself warm at home, ensuring you have enough heating oil or meter credit if necessary, keeping medicines stocked up and making sure you have grit and salt.
“Drivers should double check their vehicle is ready for ice and snow, with the correct tyres fitted and inflated and a boot stocked with de-icer and a scraper as well as a flask, water and blankets in case of breakdown. Even with all these precautions please be extra careful on the roads to avoid skids but don’t go outside – walking or driving – in severe weather unless you really need to. If you do need to take a walk wrap up warm and wear sturdy, non-slip footwear.
“People should also look out for their neighbours, particularly if they are elderly or living alone.”
Neil also asked people to be aware of how the ambulance service grades patients, in a similar way to A&E departments, for different time priorities with only immediately life-threatening incidents being subject to an eight minute response.
Minor calls will be directed to a more appropriate service so crews can get to patients who really need them.
As well as extra road resources the Trust’s clinical support desks in the control rooms will be boosted to manage an expected increase in non serious slips and falls without having to send unnecessary ambulances. This means patients will get a response most appropriate for them and crews can get to patients who are in serious medical need.
Further information about the Right Call campaign and Get Wise in Winter information can be found at www.eastamb.nhs.uk.
It includes advice about keeping your home and yourself warm and making sure you have everything in place to keep well including adequate stocks of food and medicines and notes of handy numbers like NHS Direct (0845 46 47), your GP, friends and family.