Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Paramedics appeal over 999 calls

South Central Ambulance Service
The service has appealed for people not to abuse the 999 call system

An ambulance service says it has seen the number of 999 category A calls for life-threatening cases rise by at least 8% in Hampshire this year.

Neil Cook, east Hampshire's head of operations for South Central Ambulance Service, said the service now receives an extra 30 life-or-death calls a day.

But control room staff say the service is misused by some, putting pressure on the 55 ambulances covering the county.

The service has appealed for people not to abuse it.

We do have calls from people who say they have called us because they have no credit on their [mobile] phone
Sue Boyce
clinical nurse manager

Mr Cook said the service had improved on the national target of 75% for life-threatening calls - where paramedics must arrive on scene within eight minutes - by 1%.

His comments come after an annual report from the independent Care Quality Commission published on 15 October put South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) among the three worst in England.

Figures show between Monday and Friday SCAS receives 120 to 145 category A calls a day compared with 105 last year.

The paramedics also have to deal with all other serious but not immediately life-threatening calls - classed as category B - where they must respond within 19 minutes.

Sue Boyce, clinical nurse manager for the ambulance service, said: "We do have calls from people who say they have called us because they have no credit on their [mobile] phone, no money to call the surgery or perhaps NHS Direct."

According to BBC South's health correspondent David Fenton, 70% of the urgent cases are taken to the emergency unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

He learned that the hospital is often so busy that patients are forced to wait in a queue on trolleys in the corridor.

SCAS paramedic David Palmer said: "I think the maximum we [have] had was 14 patients physically on the corridor.

"When most of the patients are laying on a trolley which is about nine feet-long, we basically have effectively used all of the corridor space [in the department]."

South Central Ambulance Service provides 999 cover for Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

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