NHS chief Sir Stephen Powis has said that the public can help to reduce demand on the NHS in several ways this Christmas- including by drinking responsibly. The guidance comes as ambulance workers take part in their first of two planned days of strike action this month.
The NHS has asked people to “use services wisely” and to “take simple steps” to help ensure care is available to the patients who need it most. Ambulance workers are out on strike today (December 21) in the latest day of industrial action.
NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “There is no doubt that the NHS is facing extreme pressure and industrial action will add to the already record demand we are seeing on urgent and emergency care, and so it is really important that the public play their part by using services wisely.
“This means continuing to call 999 for life-threatening emergencies – if it is not life-threatening you may have to wait longer than usual for an ambulance.
“And using 111 online for other health needs where you will receive clinical advice on the best next steps to take.
“But people can also help by taking sensible steps to keep themselves and others safe during this period and not ending up in A&E – whether that is drinking responsibly or checking up on a family member or neighbour who may be particularly vulnerable to make sure they are ok.
“NHS staff have worked hard to minimise disruption but it is inevitable as with any industrial action that we will see an impact on services but it is vital if you need lifesaving care, to continue to come forward.”
The ambulance worker strikes follow two days of industrial action from nurses earlier this month. The NHS has been preparing extensively for industrial action and for winter, with plans already in place to manage additional demand including 24/7 control centres, additional bed capacity, more mental health support for ambulance services and more community falls services.