THE ambulance service covering Oxfordshire said it is currently ‘under extreme pressure’, which escalated over the weekend and has continued into this week.

South Central Ambulance Service has declared a critical incident, meaning that it will focus resources on those patients most in need and communicate the pressures to patients and health system partners who can provide support.

 The service said that 999 calls are up 50 per cent on this time last year and 111 calls up 75 per cent over the same period.

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This is combined with challenges of ambulances being unable to handover the care of their patients at some hospitals, which prevents them getting crews back on the road to respond to other patients.

People are being asked to only call 999 for life-threatening emergencies and to use NHS 111 online for urgent medical advice ( wherever possible and appropriate to do so.

 This will direct people to the most appropriate service – including alternative options such as pharmacies, GPs and urgent treatment centres.

The industrial action planned for today (December 21) and December 28 may add further pressure.

However, the impact at SCAS is expected mainly on our non-emergency patient transport service.

Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS, said: “Last week was an extremely difficult week, which has only escalated over the course of the weekend and into this week, leading to us declaring a critical incident.

“I am extremely proud of how hard our staff and volunteers are working to meet the demand. We have implemented a range of measures to help us manage the significantly increased level of activity we are seeing.

“This has included bringing in additional staff to put more vehicles on the road, increasing the number of call takers working both on site and remotely and providing more clinical support and advice by phone for those patients not suffering life-threatening emergencies.

“We will all continue to work as hard as we can to deliver the best possible service in these difficult circumstances and we greatly appreciate the support and patience being shown by patients, families and the wider public.

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“The public can play its part in supporting us at this time by continuing to make use of for urgent medical advice and signposting to the most appropriate service for their needs.

“111 online can assess and direct you to the right care in as little as 90 seconds and, if needed, a healthcare professional will call you back, but we need people to be aware this may take longer than usual due to current high demand.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

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