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Ambulance service experiences busiest week in its history

19 July 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is urging people to use its service sensibly – after experiencing its busiest week on record for the second time so far this month.

SWASFT responded to 23,088 incidents during the seven days up until Sunday, which is equivalent to one incident every 26 seconds.

Sunday was the busiest day recorded in Trust history with 3,522 incidents, and Saturday was the third busiest with 3,443 incidents. The second busiest was New Year’s Day in 2018. Sunday’s figure corresponds to 147 incidents every hour, and more than two incidents per minute.

Last week’s total figure exceeded the previous record of 22,050 incidents during the seven days to 4 July. Incident numbers were 30% higher than those recorded on the equivalent week two years ago.

Ahead of what is expected to be a very busy school summer holiday period in the South West, SWASFT says it must continue to prioritise speaking to and treating the most seriously injured and unwell patients.

To allow it to prioritise patients effectively, the Trust is asking everyone who uses its service to do so sensibly. People should only to call 999 in a genuine, life-threatening emergency, for example:

  • Chest pain / breathing difficulties / heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Serious head injuries
  • Major trauma such as a road traffic accident or a fall from height.

They should not ring back to ask for an estimated arrival time, and should only call back if the patient’s condition worsens or they no longer need an ambulance.

Ceri Smart, SWASFT Assistant Director of Operations - Resource Management, said: “Our service is continuing to experience an unprecedented high level of demand, and we have just had two of our three busiest days in our history.

“We are calling on the public to support us in protecting the NHS, so we can continue to save lives. Please help us, to help you, by only calling 999 in a genuine life-threatening emergency, and do not call back for an estimated arrival time. For other medical concerns, do contact NHS 111 for advice and support.

“Our people are working incredibly hard, 24/7, to ensure we are there for the people across the South West who need us most.”

The Trust is also encouraging people to look after themselves and others during this period of very warm and dry weather. They are advised to drink plenty of water, limit their exposure to direct sunlight, and check on those who are vulnerable.

Ceri added: “During this period of hot weather, do keep cool, stay hydrated and stay safe. If you’re out and about, please be sensible and look after yourself and those with you.”

People going out on daytrips or visiting the region are asked to bring their regular medication, as well as essentials such as sunscreen, antiseptic remedies and paracetamol.


1. People should call 999 for an ambulance in a medical emergency. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. For example: if someone has stopped breathing, is unconscious or has serious bleeding.

2. People with non-life threatening but urgent medical problems should contact NHS 111.

3. Inappropriate use of the 999 service puts unnecessary additional pressure on ambulance resources, and can delay emergency care to those most in need.

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South Western Ambulance Charity

The South Western Ambulance Charity, founded in 1995, uses gifted monies to benefit those in our communities who use our service and to improve the welfare of the staff and volunteers of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. 

Our charitable support covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire including Bristol and Swindon.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the care that you or your loved one has received from us in the form of a charitable donation please visit our online giving website: Donate to South Western Ambulance Charity | Give as you Live Donate