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'If you have a heart attack call 999, not a minicab' says Care Minister
5 January 2022, 08:54 | Updated: 5 January 2022, 09:04
Health minister Gillian Keegan has told people who need "urgent medical attention" to call an ambulance and not a taxi amid the NHS staffing crisis.
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Ms Keegan's comments come after North East Ambulance Service suggested people may get to A&E quicker by car than ambulance if they were having a heart attack.
When asked wether she agreed with the suggestion, the Care Minister told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "I think if you have a heart attack you should call emergency services, you should explain you have got a heart attack and you will be put at the top of the queue and you will get people who can help you.
"Obviously if people can go to a hospital with a relative taking them then that’s what you do if you think it will be quicker. "
The Health Service Journal reported that the note by North East Ambulance Service said where there was likely to be a risk from the delay in an ambulance reaching a patient, call handlers should "consider asking the patient to be transported by friends or family".
It comes as record levels of coronavirus infections across the UK have placed a strain on key services, including on the NHS and ambulance services.
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have all confirmed they declared internal critical incidents.
Mrs Keegan added: "The whole system is under pressure, there is absolutely no doubt and we anticipated there would be a lot of pressure this winter.
"Obviously omicron has added to that.
"But we have more ambulance services in operation than we have ever had actually another 500 crews in the last couple of years have been put on.
"We’ve also invested £55million in ambulance alone to make sure that we can staff to cope with the pressures.
"Now I know there is a lot of pressure in the system but we expect that you can rely on getting to hospital if you are an emergency like a heart attack."
During her interview the Care Minister revealed an announcement on PCR test requirement changes is expected by the end of the week.
Whilst there is "no official" update yet, on whether testing rules will be changed in England so that those who test positive in lateral flow tests will not need a confirmatory PCR, Mrs Keegan said the government "are looking at what makes sense".
She added that the UK will increase the amount of Lateral Flow Tests available to 350 million per month.