THE Welsh Ambulance Service is asking for the public to use 999 sensibly and play their part in curbing Covid-19 infection rates in the face of acute pressure and critical levels of demand.
With call volumes almost double those predicted, with sharply rising levels of Covid-19 in the community adding to the usual higher levels of illness over the winter, and with significant pressures across NHS Wales, the ambulance service has taken the decision to move to its highest level of escalation in a bid to ensure it can help those most in need.
While not an easy decision to make, it is in line with the framework of actions under consideration across NHS Wales announced by the Minister for Health and Social Services today (December 10).
As a result, some patients will wait a long time for help this evening and in the coming days.
If it’s not a life threatening emergency, some patients will be asked to make alternative arrangements to access care, including seeing their pharmacist or GP, receiving advice over the phone or making their own way to hospital if that is appropriate.
The Trust is asking the public to adhere to the Covid-19 rules, and only call 999 or attend A&E if they are seriously sick or injured.
Chief Executive Jason Killens said: “Winter is our busiest period, and this year we also have a global pandemic to contend with, and now rising rates of infection in our communities.
“Last week’s critical incident was a sign of just how busy we were, and today, we again find ourselves under extreme pressure.
“We need to manage people’s expectations about what service they’ll get if they call for an ambulance.
“As always, we’re prioritising those immediately life threatening calls, so if your call is less urgent, we may ask you to make an alternative arrangement.
“The 111 Wales symptom checkers are the best place to start if you’re ill or injured and unsure what to do.”
Jason thanked ambulance staff and volunteers for their efforts through the pandemic, and is calling on the public also to play their part in the Covid-19 effort.
He said: “It’s absolutely crucial that people listen to what is being asked of them – don’t socially mix, avoid unnecessary contact with others, do self-care as far as possible and use NHS services appropriately.
“We need people to go back to supporting the NHS the same way they did in the first lockdown, thinking seriously about what it is absolutely necessary to do and remember – hands, face, space.
“We – the NHS – are the same people working flat out, with now higher levels of demand, but we are seeing people being less compliant with the guidance but expecting the same level of service they would get in less pressurised times, and that just isn’t feasible.
“In an escalating second wave of a global pandemic, we’re working closely with our health board colleagues to step up, and staff are doing their very best.
“Please public – help us help you.”