In December 2014, North East Ambulance Service took the decision to increase its operational status up to Level 4 – Severe Pressure – to protect core services for the most vulnerable patients in the region.
It was reduced back down to Level 3 – Moderate Pressure – in January.
All UK ambulance services have six levels of alert, based on demand and their ability to maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response, which is known as the Resource Escalation Action Plan (REAP).
Normal routine operations would be at REAP Level 1 and at Level 6 there is potential service failure; at each level there are actions to protect every ambulance trust’s core services.
The decision was made as a result of sustained pressure on our emergency care services and delays in ambulance turnaround due to a similar demand in acute trusts.
Between April 2014 and January 2015, the service responded to 13,576 more Category A red emergencies than in the same period last year. This is an increase in 9.7 per cent.
Looking at December alone, the service responded to 1,940 incidents than December 2013 – an increase of 12.9 per cent.
All patients calling 999 still received a response but target times were breached in some cases.
Internally, clinically trained non-operational staff were deployed into operations and operational managers worked operational shifts rather than ‘office hours’ as well as being deployed to A&E departments to support turnaround processing.
We also liaised with our NHS colleagues to discuss additional support and enlisted additional support from voluntary aid services, such as St John and Red Cross.
Simon Swallow, NEAS head of resilience, said: “The pressure on our service is still high but not as severe as it was when NEAS escalated in December and we will monitor it closely in conjunction with the wider NHS in the region.
“There continues to be pressure across the wider NHS network and we urge people to use all of the alternative NHS services available to them and this wisely before using emergency NHS services.”