Wintry weather contributes to busiest-ever festive weekend for 999 calls

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More than 1,000 emergency calls were made in South Yorkshire as the region’s ambulance service recorded its busiest-ever festive weekend.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service said it dealt with record numbers of ‘Red’ 999 calls – incidents involving the most seriously ill and injured patients.

Following the heavy snow on Boxing Day, there was a marked increase in call-outs for paramedics at the weekend, as they dealt with more car crashes and weather-related slips, trips and falls in the snow and ice.

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On Saturday, the trust responded to 589 incidents in South Yorkshire, with almost 43 per cent classified as ‘Red’.

On Sunday, there were a further 595 emergency calls in the region, of which 22 per cent were ‘Red’.

Across Yorkshire, more than 4,000 calls were received over the weekend, with over 2,000 categorised as ‘Red’.

The high volume of calls has resulted in ambulance bosses pleading for people not to call 999 unless in an ‘absolute emergency’ when someone is in need of life-saving assistance.

Dr David Macklin, executive director of operations for the ambulance service, said: “Our staff and volunteers across all areas have been brilliant over the extended Christmas period. Snow and icy conditions on top of an increased demand for our most urgent calls has meant that they have had to work above and beyond their normal hours, often without breaks.

“We have had to strictly prioritise our calls to ensure that the people who most needed our help received it. This has meant that some people have not got the response they expected or wanted but I am sure they will understand that patients with life-threatening illnesses and serious injuries should be cared for first.”

The region’s NHS 111 service, also run by the ambulance trust, has also been experiencing ‘very high demand’ – with almost 20,000 calls over the weekend, 56 per cent higher than normal.

Callers are being warned to expect delays while waiting for phones to be answered and call-backs made by clinicians.

Hospital bosses have also been reporting increased pressure on services.

Dr Macklin said: “This increase in demand to 999 is unlikely to fall over the New Year period and whilst we do not want to deter people from calling 999 in serious cases such as heart attack, breathing difficulties or stroke, we do need people to think very carefully about their options and consider whether they really need an ambulance or there is another option available to them.

“Our level of calls to NHS 111 also increased dramatically and we would encourage people to also use this service responsibly for urgent medical problems, where you can’t wait for your GP or don’t know what to do.”

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said average waits at A&E at the Northern General Hospital yesterday morning were 90 minutes – with the most serious conditions prioritised for treatment. Patients attending the minor injuries unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital faced one-hour waits, while people visiting the NHS Walk-In Centre on Broad Lane in the city centre were also waiting for 90 minutes on average.

A spokesman said: “Currently the number of patients in our A&E department is high. For non-life threatening illnesses or injuries, waits will be shorter at one of the other centres in the city.”