Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

'There aren't enough of us'

Ambulance
Ambulance crews say they are feeling stretched

Ambulance services in England are reporting being swamped with increasing numbers of calls.

Cold weather and outbreaks of illness have contributed to the problem and people have been urged to dial 999 only in a genuine emergency.

Chris, a paramedic, told the BBC that the system is struggling.

"I have worked for the ambulance service for seven years.

"We used to receive 300 calls every 24 hours. Now it is 5,000."

"The last few weeks have been struggle for a variety of reasons.

"There are currently a lot of vehicles off the road, people are taking their holidays or are off sick.

"Overtime is available, and you have to do it to get a decent wage.

"But some people are not taking up the overtime at the moment because they just want a break.

"We are short-staffed and there are not enough of us to deal with the call rate."

Education

He said paramedics get a lot of wasteful calls for things like broken fingernails and cut fingers and the public need to be better educated on when to dial 999.

"Not enough is being done to promote what the ambulance service is for.

"Toothaches, broken finger nails and trying to book GP appointments are not reasons to call an ambulance.

We need more funding from the government, we need more staff and we need more vehicles

"It prevents genuine emergencies getting through quickly.

"The common misconception is, if you arrive in hospital in an ambulance then you will get seen quicker.

"This is not true.

"You may be assessed by the triage nurse quicker, but if you are low category you will go to the back of the queue."

Government targets are adding to the pressure, he said.

"Everything is target driven and I think patient care is being compromised as a result.

"We need more funding from the government, we need more staff and we need more vehicles.

"There has also been a rise in the number of admissions of drunks and people with alcohol related problems on a Friday and Saturday night.

"This is also putting pressure on the system.

"If it carries on this way, the service will collapse."

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