NHS services are facing ‘unprecedented demand’ in Sussex during the new year period with the number of 999 calls and A&E visits increasing ‘significantly’.
South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) received around 28 per cent more calls than last year during the weekend across its region, while A&E and out of hours GP services across Sussex and east Surrey recorded a 30 per cent surge in activity from Friday January 2 to Sunday January 4.
According to a joint statement from hospital and health trusts across the area services have been in ‘unprecedented demand’.
Sue Braysher, chief officer for the Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and chief operating officer for NHS Crawley CCG, is pointing patients towards pharmacies, walk-in centres, and the NHS 111 helpline.
She said: “A&E and 999 are for emergencies - if it’s not an emergency, other services are available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We know that one in three visits to A&E could be dealt with outside of hospital.”
Jane Pateman, medical director of South East Coast Ambulance Service, added: “Knowing where to go and who to call is key. Please remember that 999 should be used for seriously-ill or injured patients only, and NHS 111 can put you in touch with the out-of-hours service when you need it and your local GP surgery is closed, or when you cannot contact your GP surgery.
Meanwhile George Findlay, medical director at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “St Richard’s [in Chichester] and Worthing hospitals are incredibly busy and have been for some time.
“We are urging people to only use the A&E departments if they are seriously unwell or critically injured as this allows us to treat the large number of very sick patients who need our care the most, as quickly as possible.
“Unfortunately, it’s likely that if you are not an emergency then you will have to wait a long time.”
In Haywards Heath the trust that runs Princess Royal Hospital has said it is ‘currently under severe pressure’.
According to SECAmb the calls categorised as being the most serious and life-threatening only increased by just under 100 at the weekend, but on New Year’s Eve it handled more that 1,100 calls between 10pm and 4am - an average of more than three calls a minute.
The public can find contact details for local care services and advice for common health conditions by visiting www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net
Thew news comes as A&E departments in England have had their worst performance in a decade according to new official figures, while seven hospitals across the country have declared ‘major incidents’ as they struggle to cope with demand.