Make use of 111 online for urgent care

Plea to the public to use services wisely

People in the North East are being urged to make use of 111 online for medical advice as demand for 999 calls increases dramatically.

Demand for the 999 service has risen by almost 68% compared to levels that would normally be expected at this time of year. online offers patients advice on the best option for them to get the care they need, including getting a call back from a qualified clinician, booking them an appointment in A&E or providing advice on how to help them recover.

In the last week, North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) has received 12,706 emergency calls compared to just 7,571 for the same week in 2019 before the pandemic – an astonishing rise of 68% and the busiest week ever.

Call handlers have also reported some extraordinary 999 calls in recent days for non-emergency issues such as a person who had fallen earlier in the day and had gone to A&E, but because there was a 7-hour wait had come home and called 999 instead; and a patient with a blocked catheter who knew their call wasn’t  999 emergency, but didn’t want to wait in a queue. While these calls may have needed clinical help, they were not appropriate for a 999 response.

NEAS Chief Executive Helen Ray said: “We have seen demand on our 999 services match or exceed a pre-pandemic New Year’s Eve, which is traditionally our busiest day or the year. We are rightly prioritising those patients that are the sickest or most severely injured. Everyone who needs an ambulance will get one, but in some cases, there are some patients who could access the care they need using other options other than dialling 999.

“I would also ask that callers to 999 only ring back if the patient’s condition worsens, rather than to check what time their ambulance will arrive. While we are answering that call it may delay us answering another emergency call such as a cardiac arrest where every second counts.”

The public should continue to contact 999 if they experience:

  • A cardiac arrest where the patient is unconscious and not breathing
  • Signs of a heart attack e.g. a pain like a heavy weight in the centre of your chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Signs of stroke such as the face drooping on one side or weakness on one side
  • Heavy bleeding that won’t stop
  • Seizures
  • Sudden and rapid swelling of the eyes, lips, throat or tongue

A number of factors are thought to be contributing to the rise in calls, including the warm weather and an increase in the public spending time outside as restrictions ease. More patients are calling 999 with respiratory problems and ambulance demand has been matched by a similar increase in demand at hospital A&E departments.

Mrs Ray added: “This is a really tough time for ambulance staff and the volunteers and I’d like to pay tribute to their continued efforts to ensure patients get the care they need. They are working flat out as we see increase demand for our services. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the public can play their part by using 111 online for urgent advice but calling 999 in potentially life-threatening cases.”

She also reminded 111 callers not to hang-up and redial 999, which should only be used for life-threatening emergencies. Callers to 111 can currently expect an average wait of around 30 minutes.

People can access 111 online at

Health advice

What should I keep in my medicine cabinet at home?

Medicine or first aid

What it’s used for

Paracetamol and ibuprofen

Effective at relieving most minor aches and pains such as headaches period pain, inflammation in arthritis and sprains.

Oral rehydration salts (such as Dioralyte®)

Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration. If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help to restore your body’s natural balance of minerals and fluid and relieve discomfort and tiredness. They don’t fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria.

Antacids (comes in chewable tablets, or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form)

Stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind and be treated by a simple antacid, which will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.

First aid kit:





Eyewash solution

Sterile dressings

Medical tape


These are some of the main items that should be in your first aid kit. 


If you have small children – you should keep a thermometer and children’s paracetamol handy, and take with you if you take trips or breaks away.

Repeat prescriptions

If you or someone you care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the festive period. Many of the calls to out of hour’s health services are for emergency repeat prescriptions when people have run out of their medication – a situation that could be avoided with some forethought and planning. By thinking ahead for your regular medication you are helping our busy out of hour’s doctors and nurses.

Information on your local NHS services

If you are injured or unwell, there are a number of different NHS services that you can access. If you are unsure if a service can treat your condition, just call ahead and ask.


Your local pharmacy provides expert advice on common health problems and many pharmacies have early and late opening hours.

GP practices and out of hours GP services

Your GP practice treats the majority of your healthcare needs and is usually the first point of contact for most medical issues.

Everyone should be registered with a GP practice - if you are not registered, you can find information about local GP practices at

GP practices are usually open Monday to Friday. Many now open extended hours – sometimes earlier in the morning, later in the evening and some are open on a Saturday.

A&E or 999 – for health emergencies

Please ONLY use the 999 service for serious health emergencies which include: a major accident, broken bones, breathing problems, severe chest pains, unconsciousness, suspected stroke and severe blood loss.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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