London ambulance under significant pressure with summer months among busiest ever

·2-min read
Paramedics unload a patient from an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in London (PA)
Paramedics unload a patient from an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in London (PA)

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) has faced “significant pressure” this summer as it tackles “unprecedented” demand.

June, July and August were three of the top five busiest months ever for the NHS service’s 999 call operators this year.

July was its second busiest month on record, second only to March 2020 when paramedics worked through the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

August and June were the fourth and fifth busiest ever months respectively.

“It’s never been this consistently busy over a whole summer. Demand this high for this long and at this time of year is unprecedented,” a spokesperson said.

While the LAS can experience busier than normal periods around heatwaves and the August bank holiday, summer usually offers a period of respite.

However, this year the number of 999 and 111 calls taken by LAS teams has increased significantly since spring and remained high throughout the hot season.

LAS deputy director Brian Jordan said: “We don’t release these figures to scare Londoners.

“We think it is important that our communities know and recognise the significant pressure we’ve been under and remain under and how they can help us to help them if they need us, especially in the run up to winter.”

Prior to the pandemic, the LAS would receive around 5,500 calls on a typical busy day which rose to 6,000 per day in the spring.

The daily call rate figure has stayed around or above 6,000 ever since and has, on occasions, even gone above 7,000 calls in a 24-hour period.

What is causing this?

Several factors are believed to be behind the rise in demand, including people being out-and-about more during summer, the Covid transmission rate, continuing pressures elsewhere in the NHS and the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

People are asked only to call 999 if it is a serious medical emergency and if a person’s life is at risk. This includes unconsciousness, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, severe loss of blood and choking.

For urgent but not serious medical emergencies, people are asked to consider other options such as NHS 111 online.

A spokesperson added: “This should also be your first port of call if you’re unsure what to do. Don’t forget GPs and pharmacies can also help.”

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