SOME people waiting for ambulances will be advised to make their own way to hospital as the service deals with high levels of demand.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) will now start proactively contacting patients who are waiting for transport to explain that response times are above normal.

The service will then identify patients who are able to make their own way to the nearest Emergency Department.

All Category 2, 3 and 4 calls will be reviewed in this way, taking note of the patient's age, presenting complaint and demand within the area.

According to Secamb's website, Category 2 calls are "emergency calls" which it aims to respond to in a mean average of 18 minutes.

Category 3 are "urgent calls" and patients may be treated by ambulance staff in their own home. It aims to respond within two hours 90 per cent of the time.

Category 4 are "less urgent" calls. Patients may be given advice over the phone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. It aims to respond to this category within three hours 90 per cent of the time.

A Secamb spokesman said: “Certain patients waiting longer than we would like are being informed of their potential waiting time and - only after having been clinically risk assessed - asked if they can have alternative means to attend hospital.

"Ambulance crews will still be dispatched where a crew is required on scene.

"Our service is extremely busy and staff are working hard to continue to provide care and the public can help us to help them by using 111 online to get medical advice.”

On Saturday, the service issued out a statement to warn people that it was fielding many 999 calls.

"Our 999 service continues to receive a high number of calls right across our region this evening," a spokesman said.

"As always, the sickest patients come first & anyone not facing a serious emergency could wait longer or be asked to seek alternatives to an ambulance.

"Please use 999 responsibly."

Secamb handled 25,599 calls last week, between July 16 and 23.

This is an average of more than 3,600 calls a day and some 24 per cent higher than a similar July week in 2019 before the pandemic.

The service's Medical Director, Dr Fionna Moore said: “Our frontline ambulance crews, 999 and 111 call handlers and our dedicated volunteer community first responders are all working extremely hard to ensure we respond to patients as quickly as possible as we see increased demand for our services.

“As ever, we are prioritising our response to patients who are most sick and severely injured. Everyone who needs an ambulance will get one, however there are other and often better options for people to get the care they need.

“And as has been the case throughout the pandemic, the public can play their part by using 111 online for urgent advice, calling 999 in life-threatening cases – and only calling back if their condition worsens – and by getting the Covid jab.”

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