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London Ambulance Service under 'incredible pressure' but 'coping', Chief Executive says

3 January 2021, 10:51

By Megan White

The London Ambulance Service is under "incredible pressure" but is "coping" amid the coronavirus crisis, its Chief Executive has told LBC.

Speaking exclusively to Swarbrick on Sunday, Garrett Emmerson said the service was receiving between 7,500 and 8,000 calls per day, with New Year's Day its second busiest day ever.

He said over Christmas the service has seen "more face-to-face incidents that our crews are having to go to than we've ever seen before."

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But despite the number of calls the service has received, Mr Emmerson said "it's really tough but we are managing to cope at the moment."

He told LBC's Tom Swarbrick: "It's been incredibly busy - Boxing Day was our second busiest day ever and in fact we've surpassed that now, because New Year's Day was even busier than that.

"We're busier than we've ever been, frankly, both in our 999 services and indeed 111.

"My staff and volunteers are doing an incredible job out there every day, working probably harder than they've ever had to work before.

"We are managing to cope, it's really tough but we are managing to cope at the moment."

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Asked what was meant by busy, Mr Emmerson added: "To give you some context, we're seeing double the number of calls we'd normally see at this time of year in 111, we're probably 50 per cent busier than we'd be in the middle of a winter when we're normally at our busiest anyway.

"We're 50 per cent busier again in 999 call answering, and more face-to-face incidents that our crews are having to go to than we've ever seen before."

He continued: "It's continuing to be at that level of 7,500 to 8,000 calls every day, so it's the sustained pressure that I think is different.

"In the spring, we saw those kind of numbers, or a little below those numbers, but for a very short period.

"We know this time because it's the winter, rather than the spring, it's likely to be more sustained.

"So we're working with the whole health system in London, working with the hospitals, the acute sector, the primary care sector, to make sure we've got as many pathways open to patients and ways of treating patients and making sure that, difficult as it is at hospitals at the moment, we're doing everything we can to smooth the flow of patients into hospitals."

Mr Emmerson said it is "probably less likely" that the military will be enlisted to help the ambulance service in London, adding that they had support from 400 specially trained London Fire Brigade staff to drive vehicles and carry out emergency care.

He also said there was "some help" from surrounding ambulance services, and that London could also help them "as the virus spreads around."

Mr Emmerson said it was "absolutely the message" that the NHS is "open for business", adding: "Although we're under incredible pressure, we're here for people when they need us most and it's important that people do ring us if they get into a seriously unwell situation and feel they're unable to.

"It's about using NHS services sensibly and wisely, using 111 as well as 999, using 111 online, using the wider GP network and primary care system, and then we will make sure we're there for Londoners when they need us."