Monday 29th December 2014 – 11.51am – Murray MacGregor.
Just when ambulance staff thought they might get a break from the soaring demand, winter struck with a vengeance. With sharp frosts and snow lying across parts of the region, demand rose sharply. Not only that, the public started accessing health services in increasing numbers after the Christmas break.
New figures from West Midlands Ambulance Service show that demand across the three days of the festive weekend (Friday 26th – Sunday 29th) showed a double digit rise over last year, with some areas hit by staggering spikes in demand and the Saturday the sixth busiest day ever.
• Friday: demand was up 14.1% – call numbers reached 3,273 compared to 2,869 for the same day in 2013.
• Saturday: demand was up 15.4% – 3,551 calls compared to 3,043.
• Sunday: demand was up 10.6% – 3,145 calls compared to 2,976
Although these figures are extraordinary, it is when you look at the local picture that you see the real story. On Friday, the Trust saw demand up 21% in the Black Country and Staffordshire. Saturday say a 34% rise (year on year) in Coventry & Warwickshire, 26% in Herefordshire and 23% in the Black Country. Whilst Sunday was slightly less bad, the Trust still saw demand peaks of almost 19% in Herefordshire and 11% in Staffordshire and Shropshire.
With hospitals across the region being similarly hit with very high demand, the Trust is urging everyone to access their healthcare wisely with self care at the forefront. Far too many people are still asking for assistance with colds and flu like symptoms which can be dealt with at home.
WMAS Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “Firstly, I would like to thank my staff and our volunteers for the astonishing effort they have put in, not only over the last few days, but over the last few weeks. No fewer than 10 of the 20 busiest days we have ever had have come in December 2014.
“Having been out and about on the road and in our control rooms I know the pressures that the staff have been under and it is a mark of their dedication that they continue to provide such a high quality of care in very difficult circumstances.
“I would also pay tribute to the many staff who support our frontline crews such as the mechanics, stores staff, ambulance fleet assistants who prepare the vehicles, hospital liaison staff, non-urgent patient transport, the officers who support these staff and the many others who carry out additional roles. It is a team effort and they should not be forgotten.
“Also I my thanks must go to the staff in the 111 call centre who have also had an incredibly busy time over recent weeks. They have been able to divert many calls that might previously come to the 999 service to other parts of the NHS.”