Ambulance call rates double

EMERGENCY calls for ambulances have more than doubled in the east during the last decade, figures revealed today.

EMERGENCY calls for ambulances have more than doubled in the east during the last decade, figures revealed today.

In 1994/5 there were 71,657 calls to the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. In 2006/7 there were 194,235.

According to the service, additional staffing levels, changes in the way emergency services are delivered and new technologies mean the dramatic increase has not put too great a strain on the service. In fact, it said response times have improved during the same period.

But Matthew Ware, head of communications at the East of England Ambulance Service, urged people to think before dialling 999.

He said: “Ambulance crews attend far more jobs per shift than they would have done previously.

“There is a lot less down time. They quite often go from one job to another and not back to base.

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“Ten years ago we were only just starting to see one or two fast response vehicles. Now we have a lot of single-man fast response vehicles who can get to a heart attack victim quicker. It's a completely different ways of working.

“There has been much more investment in the ambulance service.

“And the technology is better. There's no comparison in the control room to what there was before and what there is now.

“There is not much of a problem because we don't send an ambulance to every single call anymore.”

Mr Ware said he thought the increases could be put down to a higher than average increase in population in the east of England, an increase in the number of calls to drink/drug related incidents, public perception of poor access to GP out of hours services and an increase in mobile phone usage.

He added that another possible explanation was people's over-eagerness to call for an ambulance when they were not in an emergency situation.

He said: “We live in a risk-adverse society where people panic as soon as there is even the slightest thing wrong and they don't know where else to go. They should be ringing NHS Direct.”

Has an ambulance saved your life? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or -email: eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The number of 999 calls in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire

1994/5 - 71,657

1995/6 - 79,046

1996/7 - 88,185

1997/8 - 95,893

1998/9 - 100,741

1999/2000 - 105,924

2000/1 - 114,145

2001/2 - 124,792

2002/3 - 134,149

2003/4 - 150795

20004/5 - 164,718

2005/6 - 179,959

2006/7 - 194,235

SOURCE : East of England Ambulance Service

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