How we prepare for winter

Public can help ease demand by only using 999 in an emergency

The winter is without doubt the busiest time of year for all ambulance services in the UK.

Last year, emergency calls to NEAS reached record levels - with one 24-hour period seeing more than 1,300 people in the North East contact us for help.

Snow, frost and cold temperatures contribute to a rise in the number of slips, trips and falls, along with an increase in illnesses such as the flu or the Norovirus.

The North East Ambulance Service actually starts preparing for winter in the summer. Snow shovels and special traction socks for ambulance tyres are ordered, along with other pieces of kit which come in handy at this time of year. Arrangements are made to add extra 4x4 vehicles to our regular fleet.

This means our crews have the equipment and vehicles they need to navigate through some potentially extremely difficult conditions.

Inevitably, response times may drop on a day when our region experiences severe frost or snow - but our ambulance crews will try and reach you as soon as they can.

We also have a dedicated winter plan. This takes in all the potential hazards that winter can throw at us, and provides solutions. Every year it's reviewed, and if we have discovered a better way of doing something from the previous winter, then it's added in.

The winter planning team meet every few weeks from September onwards to keep an eye on how the plan is working. Each department within NEAS also makes a daily report, listing any problems it has encountered due to the weather.

As during the rest of the year, NEAS continues to operate 24/7. On days when conditions are particularly tough we may call on other agencies to strengthen our options. These include the Great North Air Ambulance, St John Ambulance, British Red Cross, the RNLI and various mountain rescue teams.

Our Patient Transport Service will be maintained throughout the winter period as per current arrangements unless adverse winter weather conditions make this impossible.

NEAS stays closely involved with the Met Office and Environment Agency during this busy period, and is constantly updated on weather conditions. We get our first forecast on the coming winter in the autumn!

The indications are that we will be busier this year than the last.

With that in mind, we are asking the public to help us, by only calling 999 for a genuine emergency.

Minor injuries and ailments can be dealt with via NHS 111, your GP, or a walk-in health centre.

The public can also help by ensuring they have a stock of regular medicines, and where possible, by staying indoors when temperatures plummet.

 Click here to read the full Winter Plan for England.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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