Choose the right type of care during the winter months
Help ambulances reach those most in need
Demand on the NHS is at its highest in the winter. Temperatures
plummet and viral infections are more prevalent.
The elderly and people with existing medical conditions find it
particularly difficult to cope when cold weather strikes.
You can help NEAS make the best use of resources this winter by
seeking the most appropriate care for your symptoms.
Options available other than an
Call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. They can answer health related
questions around the clock, and direct patients to the right
Call 111 if you live in County Durham and Darlington and need help
fast, but it isn't an emergency.
Pharmacists and chemists provide a lot of good help and advice for
the most common illnesses, along with the right medicines.
GP/family doctor provide medical advice, examinations and
prescriptions for illnesses you can't shake off.
NHS walk-in centre/Urgent care centre provide treatment of minor
illnesses or injuries, without an appointment.
Accident and emergency department or 999 are available for critical
or life-threatening situations.
Paul Liversidge, director of operations at NEAS, said: "As an
emergency service, 999 calls to the ambulance service should only
be made for critical or life-threatening situations.
"Sadly, we do receive calls for minor illnesses and injuries
that could be dealt with by local GPs, or at walk-in centres.
"Our priority is to reach those most in need as quickly as we
can. Everyone can play their part in helping the NHS by looking
after themselves properly when they get ill, and by choosing the
most appropriate way to seek help and support.
"This helps reduce the burden on essential emergency
In December 2010, NEAS dealt with 26,032 incidents - a rise of
almost 1,000 on the previous year. During Christmas week, we
received 8,726 calls compared with 7,060 in 2009. This made it the
busiest winter on record for the North East Ambulance Service.
In one five-hour spell on Boxing Day, more than 1,300 people
contacted NEAS - a 177% increase on the same period for 2009!
Tips for keeping warm and infection free
Close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in.
Use hot water bottles or electric blankets to stay warm at
Eat well - try to have regular, hot meals and drink plenty
throughout the day.
Wrap up warm, inside and out. Several thin layers are better than
one thick layer. Wear hats, gloves and scarves.
possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or
Keep active. Move around at least once an hour and don't sit down
for long periods. Even light exercise will help keep you warm and
The NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk also has some really good
information about self-treating minor conditions. This helps
ensure the ambulance service is free to deal with serious and life
Every year we draw up a winter plan. This helps us make sure we
have the right resources in place to cope with a severe spell of
In 2011/12, all of our Rapid Response vehicles will be fitted
with winter tyres. We have bolstered our fleet by buying a number
of BMW 4x4s. Ambulances and Rapid Response cars will also carry
snow shovels and winter socks - which can be quickly fitted to
tyres should the need arise to provide better traction.
Sufficient supplies of items including portable oxygen canisters
and blankets are available, while arrangements are in place to use
support from organisations such as St John's Ambulance, The Red
Cross and local Mountain Rescue Teams.