Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Allied Health
BSc Paramedic Science
Category: Allied and public health
11 December 2018
For those of you who have not noticed - darker & colder nights are setting in; mornings involve plenty of hot drinks and de-icing of cars – winter is upon us!
For the NHS, winter presents a new challenge every year – headlines often plague the media citing 'unprecedented demand' & 'extended wait times'. As a student paramedic, I have seen the change in demand and type of calls received by emergency ambulance services through various times of the year. Over the winter of 2017/18, there were a total of 1.3 million ambulance arrivals from the ten ambulance trusts at hospitals across England - that's the same as the entire population of Birmingham arriving by ambulance.
From my personal experience, I was on placement over November & December of 2017 and saw first-hand the effect of the 'winter pressures' on the NHS as a system. Statistics show that 13.3% of ambulance handovers were delayed by 30 minutes or more, this is something I witnessed as a student. Over this period, I saw a rise in respiratory complaints and ‘flu-like’ presentations, brought on by the cold weather; this often affected the elderly population and those with chronic conditions most. We also attended some patients who, due to the weather, were unable to get to local pharmacies to collect their essential medication.
The winter period is under additional strain due to the rise in parties over Christmas and New Year. Alcohol is a huge problem in many cities and puts great pressure on ambulance trusts, community services and A&E departments. I have attended many callouts for adults who had been careless in their consumption of alcohol, or who had become a victim of alcohol induced violence.
There have been many schemes and campaigns run by organisations over the winter period, including London Ambulance Service's - 'getting drunk is not a game' campaign.
There are some simple steps that everybody can take to help relieving the pressure on the system. For those with chronic medical conditions, ensure you are up to date with your medicines and have methods to collect from pharmacies. For those with elderly relatives, regularly check up on them – I have seen patients whose houses have become bitterly cold and caused them to become unwell, or have fallen and been unable to move.
For those who are planning to go out over the winter period, please drink in moderation; know your limits and plan how you are going to get home. Being sat in A&E to sober up is not the most appropriate use of NHS resources, especially at a time of year when they are most stretched. Also, for times when you need some urgent medical advice and it’s not an emergency, remember NHS 111.