Emergency calls questioned by ambulance bosses at Warwickshire council meeting

Public urged to think twice with just ten per cent of 999 calls considered a true emergency

Calls should only be made to the 999 ambulance service in a true emergency according to health bosses as they prepare for a winter that is likely to heap extra pressure on the NHS.

West Midlands Ambulance Service directors Mark Docherty and Murray MacGregor issued the appeal during this week’s [WED] meeting of Warwickshire County Council’s adult social care and health overview and scrutiny committee.

Mr Docherty said: “There is a big issue about how we engage with the public. Take 20 to 30-year-olds - they are using 999 ambulance services more than twice as much as the same generation ten years ago. They are not sicker or having more accidents, it is because they have mobile phones and they want everything now.

A West Midlands ambulance.

“If you use all the ambulances for people who don’t really need them, then you haven’t got them for the people who do. The true emergencies probably represent about ten per cent of our work so there is a large proportion of work that we are doing that falls outside of what we would normally determine as 999 emergency work.

“We have to try and get that work into different places. We have to try and decongest the true emergency service that we are trying to provide.”

Committee chair Cllr Clare Golby (Con, Arbury) urged everyone to follow the advice.

She said: “We have the ambulance service here telling everyone ‘please use our service appropriately’ - and that is a message we should all be listening to. For the systems to work they have to be used properly.”

Councillors had asked for representatives of West Midlands Ambulance Service to answer questions about failures in hitting targets across huge parts of Warwickshire with Cllr John Holland (Lab, Warwick West) urging bosses to sit down with those in charge of emergency departments to iron out issues with handover times.

But Mr MacGregor explained that the problem involved more than just those two organisations.

He said: “It is interesting that you say it is a matter between A&E and the ambulance service - no it’s not. It is a matter between A&E, the hospital as a whole, the ambulance service, primary care and the council because you are in charge of social care.

“The biggest issue the hospital will tell you they face is getting people out the back door. If they can’t do that then they can’t get someone in at the front door so the council has a massive part to play in this as much as anyone else including primary care and mental health organisations.”