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How you can help your ambulance service this Bank Holiday

26 August 2021

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is encouraging people to use the right healthcare service this Bank Holiday weekend, as it continues to experience very high demand.

Colleagues are responding to around 3,000 emergency incidents per day, which is the equivalent of more than two new emergencies every minute.

Numbers are 15% higher than the same time last year, due to unprecedented high-level demand on NHS services in the South West.

Various factors are thought to be contributing to the rise in demand, including more people socialising and an increase in Covid-19 transmission rates in the community.

Bank Holiday weekends tend to generate more 999 calls to the Clinical Hubs, especially when the weather is warm and sunny, because more people go out and about and visit the region.

SWASFT is continuing to prioritise treating the most seriously injured and unwell patients, and is reminding people only to call 999 in genuine, life-threatening emergencies. These include patients who are unconscious, experiencing breathing difficulties, heavy bleeding, severe burns, or having a severe allergic reaction.

People 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. This helps keep phone lines free for others in need.

Patients who need urgent medical help or advice are encouraged to visit or to call 111, which is free and available 24/7. This will ensure they get the right care, and the ambulance service can focus on those most in need.

For ongoing or non-urgent medical concerns or if they need medicines, people should contact their local GP surgery or a local pharmacy.

999 call handler Ella said: “Before you ring 999, please think – is this a life-threatening emergency? Is someone completely unconscious that you can’t wake them up? Are they having significant difficulty breathing? Are they having an uncontrollable bleed? Do they have chest pain or stroke symptoms? If that’s the situation, please call us straight away and we will help you.

“If it’s not, please use one of the other NHS services, such as 111, to ensure the patient gets the most appropriate care, and to make sure we’re able to help other people in the South West who needs us.”


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. The service offers patients quick advice on the best option for them to get the care they need, including getting a call back from a trained clinician or nurse, booking them an appointment in A&E, or providing advice on how to help them recover.

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

4. More than half of incidents dealt with by SWASFT are closed without the patient needing to be conveyed by ambulance to hospital.

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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