North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust today raised its operational status to “severe pressure” under a framework to protect core services for the most vulnerable patients in the region.
There are six levels of alert in the national framework designed to maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response for the UK’s ambulance services.
Today, NEAS was the eighth ambulance service out of 10 in England to declare its status at level 4. This means that while we attempt to operate a normal service, our response standard to potentially life-threatening calls has deteriorated.
Paul Liversidge, NEAS chief operating officer, said: “We are experiencing severe pressures in responding to emergency calls and with additional pressures across the wider NHS network causing delays in ambulance turnaround times at hospitals we have taken the decision to move the service to level 4 to protect our most vulnerable patients.”
This means that some patient transport service vehicles will move onto emergency care front line services; paramedic trainers and other clinical staff working in support services will return to front line duties; and clinically qualified managers will be made available for front line duties.
The public can help NEAS reach those patients most in need during this time by using 999 wisely. If someone has an injury of ailment which is not an emergency, they can call NHS 111, or seek help from their GP, pharmacist or local walk-in centre.
During winter months, the demand for NHS services increases significantly as cold weather means there are more slips, trips and injuries. Generally more people feel unwell during the winter as they spend more time indoors and coughs and colds are passed around the family, friends and colleagues at work.
This all adds up to more of people having an accident or becoming unwell with a winter bug, meaning more people want to see their GP, attend accident and emergency or call 999.
North East Ambulance Service is urging people to ‘Keep calm and look after yourself’ this winter, to remind people that many of the common winter ailments and illnesses are easily treated at home, or with advice from a pharmacist – with no need to see a doctor or nurse.
Advice on how to treat a range of common winter conditions by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home or speaking to your local pharmacist is available at keepcalmthiswinter.org.uk or @keepcalmne.
Mr Liversidge continues, “Most normally healthy people with a winter illness do not need to see their GP, attend A&E and absolutely do not need to call 999. Colds, sore throats, head-aches, hangovers, upset stomachs, coughs, aches, pains, and winter vomiting should all be treated at home or with the advice of your local pharmacist, with pain killers, rest and plenty of fluids.
“By doing this not only are you helping to reduce the spread of winter viruses to other vulnerable patients in NHS waiting rooms – you are also keeping appointments available for people who have serious health conditions that must see a doctor or nurse.”
What is REAP?
All UK ambulance services have six levels of alert, based on demand and performance, aimed at maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response. Normal routine operations would be at REAP Level 1 and at each level there are actions to protect every ambulance trust’s core services.
The REAP is designed to increase operational resource in line with demand, in order to assist the service in coping with periods of high pressure and maintain the quality of patient care. Hence the varying levels reflecting increased pressure on the service, up to Level 6 where there is potential service failure.
The considerations and actions within the REAP are designed to assist in protecting staff, patients and the organisation, and to enable the trust to deliver core functions and to recover the full range of service within an agreed timeframe.