Ambulance service in England declares critical incident amid 'extreme pressures'

30 October 2021, 22:49

The South Central Ambulance Service has declared a critical incident
The South Central Ambulance Service has declared a critical incident. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

An ambulance service in England has declared a critical incident in the face of "extreme pressures" and an "overwhelming" volume of calls.

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South Central Ambulance Service - which covers the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, Sussex and Surrey - pleaded with the public to be wise when considering whether to call, reminding people they are to be contacted in the event of life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

"South Central Ambulance Service has declared a Critical Incident due to extreme pressures across our services," read a post on the service's Twitter account.

"Our staff and volunteers are working extremely hard to respond to calls but the volume is overwhelming.

"Please, please support us by using our services wisely, we're here for life threatening illnesses and injuries.

"Thank you so much #HelpUsHelpYou."

According to the NHS, a critical incident is any localised incident where the level of disruption results in an organisation temporarily or permanently losing its ability to deliver critical services, patients may have been harmed or the environment is not safe, requiring special measures and support from other agencies to restore normal operating functions.

Earlier this week, ambulance leaders have described the "highest level of emergency activity in history" and reports from around the country paint a bleak picture of ambulances queuing for hours outside busy hospitals.

Martin Flaherty, managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: "The ambulance sector is experiencing some of the highest levels of emergency activity in its history and this is regrettably leading to delays in the sector's ability to respond to some patients."

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The declaration of a critical incident comes not long after hospitals in England were ordered to "eliminate" ambulance queues outside their sites after two deaths were linked to handover delays.

NHS bosses highlighted the "risk to patient safety" in the letter which told trusts to end all handover delays and stop using ambulances as emergency department "cubicles".