Public urged to think before they dial 999 this New Year

Plea ahead of one of busiest nights of the year

Ambulance bosses are again appealing for people in the North East to use their emergency service wisely over the New Year.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally one of the busiest nights of the year for the service. 

NEAS operational status is currently severe pressure at level three of four under the national resource escalation action plan, a framework designed to maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response for patients.

This means that while the service attempts to operate a normal service, its response standards to potentially life-threatening calls has deteriorated.

  • Last year, the service answered 1,376 calls to 999 and attended 636 incidents between 6pm on New Year’s Eve and 6am on New Year’s Day, which is many more than a usual weekend night and more are predicted for this year.
  • Over the Christmas period so far from Saturday 23 December to Thursday 28 December there has been a staggering increase in calls to 999 and 111 in the North East.  North East Ambulance Service answered more than 40,600 calls over the period compared with 29,950 over the same period last year.
  • Between 23 and 28 December the service attended 6,795 incidents across the North East, 94 more than the same period last year.
  • The service treated and/or discharged almost 1600 patient over the telephone or at home over the 6 day period
  • One of the reasons for such a large increase in calls to NHS111 has been from patients wanting a repeat prescription.

Douglas McDougall, Strategic Head of Operations at NEAS, said: “If you’re celebrating New Year, have a great time but please be aware of how much you’re drinking, eat beforehand, plan transport home, get well wrapped up and look after yourself and your friends. Everyone wants to get 2018 off to a great start, not spending the night in A&E.

“We are experiencing severe pressures in responding to emergency calls because of a significant increase in calls, so please help us reach those patients who need us most by using 999 wisely.  Your call could potentially delay our response to someone else who might need us more. 

“Over the coming weekend and bank holiday there are still other services available so make sure you consider those as well.  Calling 999 for trivial incidents and minor conditions can potentially put those with life-threatening illnesses and injuries at risk by diverting ambulances elsewhere. 

“Please think before you pick up the phone; do you really need to go to hospital and if you do, is there anyone else who can take you? Turning up to hospital in an ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker. 

“I add my thanks again to all of our staff working over the festive season. It’s been incredibly demanding for them and they have worked tirelessly – many beyond their break or finish periods.”

Party-goers can enjoy the festivities and keep themselves safe by taking some of the following steps:

* Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for cold weather

* Eat a meal before heading out

* Stay hydrated – have a soft drink in between alcoholic drinks

* Don’t over indulge with the alcohol and keep your drink in sight at all times

* Stay together and look after each other

* Pre-book your taxi for getting home before you go out and keep some money spare to pay for it. Text each other so you know you’re all home safely

People who require treatment or advice for a minor illness or injury should consider other more appropriate healthcare services available to them such as self-care, pharmacists, GP surgeries, urgent care centres or NHS 111. 

Only call 999 when someone is in need of time-critical life-saving help.   

For more information about NHS services available near you visit NHS Choices at

Examples of emergencies where 999 should always be called include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe loss of blood
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Choking 
  • Fitting or concussion
  • Drowning
  • Severe allergic reactions.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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