Healthwatch Torbay have recently received feedback saying that while the staff are ‘great’ and paramedics are ‘fabulous’, people have often had to wait quite some time for an ambulance to arrive, so we asked The South West Ambulance Service (SWAS) if there was a public message we can put out with regards to waiting times.
They’ve now posted detailed advice on their website, telling people how to ensure they get the response they need from the ambulance service and setting out the different ways they respond to 999 calls.
‘We will always dispatch an ambulance to patients who need time-critical help in a serious or life-threatening emergency,’ they tell us. ‘However, we know that hospital isn’t always the most appropriate destination for patients who need less urgent help.’
In 2018, only 54% of patients who called 999 required hospital admission, and 46% were treated either at home or on scene. When it’s safe and appropriate, less serious calls can be dealt with at the scene or over even over the phone by the service’s team of experts.
When you call 999 you will be put through to an ‘Emergency Medical Dispatcher’ who will ask a series of questions to help identify the severity of the patient’s condition. The incident will be prioritised and the most appropriate response provided.
The four categories
Category 1 includes life-threatening injuries and illnesses (e.g. cardiac arrest, serious allergic reaction) where in most cases the patient will be taken to hospital.
Category 2 means emergency calls (e.g. stroke, difficulty breathing, chest pains) where again in most cases the patient will be taken to hospital, usually the nearest emergency department.
Category 3 means urgent calls (e.g. late stages of labour, non-severe burns, diabetes). In some instances patients may be treated by ambulance staff in their own home.
Category 4 means less urgent calls (e.g. diarrhoea and vomiting, urine infections). In some instances patients may be give advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist.