Think before you call 999
AMBULANCE crews are missing vital response times for genuine emergencies because they are called out to minor ailments.
Figures show 60 per cent of ambulance call-outs are not life-threatening emergencies.
Ambulance crews doing work that could be covered by out-of-hours GP services are missing their target response times for genuine emergencies in Holderness.
Vince Larvin, locality director of emergency operations in North and East Yorkshire at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: "We will always respond to medical emergencies where it is believed someone needs time-critical help, but our highly trained and equipped staff often arrive to find people merely require treatment or advice for a minor condition.
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"This can divert our vital emergency resources away from those with potentially life- threatening conditions such as a heart attack or stroke and can cause dangerous delays.
"Winter is traditionally a time when we see demand for our service increase, mainly due to ill health and the festive period, so if we can reduce the number of inappropriate calls, this would be of great benefit to us and the patients we serve."
Yorkshire Ambulance Service asked that people with minor illnesses and injuries consider more appropriate healthcare services for their needs such as a visit to a GP, pharmacist or to call NHS Direct.
In October, Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart criticised Yorkshire Ambulance Service over its response times, saying the times were sub-standard and patients were being put at risk.
However, after taking a tour of stations, the MP said: "I was very impressed with the skills, experience and dedication of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff I met during my visit.
"I came away with a strong message that ambulances could be better used and managed by both the service and service users to produce faster response times. It is worrying to hear that 60 per cent of ambulance call- outs are not life-threatening emergencies and could be dealt with by a call to the GP or NHS Direct.
"If an ambulance is called to a non-emergency situation then it is unavailable for real emergencies.
"This means that ambulances could be held up and off-area while they deliver the non-emergency patient and hand them over to the hospital."
Yorkshire Ambulance Service has long recognised the problem of ambulances being tied up on less important jobs.
Operators try to prioritise calls and can move crews on to more pressing emergencies.
Mr Stuart, whose concern was first sparked by the revelation only 48 per cent of emergencies in Mid-Holderness are responded to within the eight- minute target time, is keen to continue monitoring the progress of Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
He said: "It is good to hear that calls are prioritised and that the service has the ability to divert an ambulance to a higher priority call en-route if needed, but this is not possible once the ambulance is engaged with a patient."