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Ambulances On Brink Of 'Major Incident'

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10:10am 29th December 2014
(Updated 10:10am 29th December 2014)

Cornwall's ambulance bosses admit they were on the brink of declaring a major incident.

It is after the southwest service got more than a 140 calls for help an hour over the weekend.

Today is expected to be one of the busiest of the year at A&E, but ambulance officials have now stood down their preparations for a major incident.

The Southwestern Ambulance Service warned Pirate FM it was getting 2,500 calls a day in the run up to Christmas.

It released examples of some of the time wasting calls it received in a bid to make people think twice about dialling 999.

But, on Saturday, call levels increased to 3,500.

It is being put down to the long Christmas weekend when GPs and pharmacies have been shut.

There is concern some A and E departments may see record attendance today.

Waiting time figures have peaked in recent weeks, with many units struggling to treat patients in the four-hour target.

An ambulance service spokesman said: "All NHS services, including 999 and NHS 111, are experiencing extremely high demand today. If you are suffering a life-threatening emergency or need urgent medical help then please call. However, if not, please think about the other healthcare options available, such as self-care or visiting a pharmacy, or please consider whether your problem could wait until your own GP surgery reopens on Monday.

"Please be aware that even if you call 999, unless you are suffering a life-threatening emergency, you may not receive an emergency ambulance. Your call will be triaged by an experienced senior clinician and you will be given the most appropriate advice for your condition.

"If when calling NHS 111 with an urgent medical problem, you receive a message saying there is a technical failure and get disconnected, please retry. There is no technical failure it is simply due to demand. Please be reassured that your call will be answered as soon as possible."

MP for St Ives and Liberal Democrat member of the Commons Health Select Committee, Andrew George said: "I have already asked health ministers to make sure that the Ambulance Trust is receiving all of the help it deserves in dealing with the unprecedented demand during the last 4 days, while 'in hours' GP surgeries and other non-urgent medical services have been unavailable.

"Unlike so many other areas of the country, like the London area or the Midlands, our emergency services can't call upon 'neighbouring' services to help out. My own area is more than 200 miles from the nearest neighbour. So it leaves my constituents especially vulnerable.

"Once this immediate crisis is over I will be urging Health chiefs and ministers to reflect on the trends which are contributing to these pressures."

10:10am 29th December 2014

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