HOSPITAL, ambulance and GP services are all struggling to cope with the ‘unprecedented demand’ across Sussex and the start of the new year.
NHS emergency and urgent care services are experiencing a significant increase in demand, with the number of people calling 999 during January 3 and 4 up by close to 30 per cent on the equivalent weekend in 2014.
The county’s ambulance service received more than 6,000 calls at the weekend, close to 1,400 more than the number received across the same weekend last year.
That is an increase of about 28 per cent, South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) said.
Because of the increase people across the county are being urged to only visit accident and emergency departments or call 999 in the case of serious illness.
Dr George Findlay, medical director at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “St Richard’s 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.”
Despite the ambulance service receiving close to 1,400 more calls at the weekend then last year, the number of those categorised as life-threatening only increased by just under 100.
During New Year’s Eve, the Trust handled an average of more than three calls a minute.
Dr Jane Pateman, medical director of SECamb, said: “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.
“NHS 111 in Sussex is run by the ambulance service. The helpline can also tell you where your nearest walk-in clinic is and late-night pharmacies. They can even call an ambulance for you if you do need to go to A&E.”
Between January 2 and 4, more than 7,000 people visited accident and emergency departments across Sussex and East Surrey, with the out-of-hours service recording a 30 per cent surge in activity.