At 17.30 hours on 1 January 2017, East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) declared a Business Continuity Incident in response to the high number of calls received and our ability to get to people reported to be in a potentially life-threatening condition.
Declaring the incident meant that we could put into place additional actions to help provide extra support and improve services. One of the actions included, in agreement with our Trade Union, reducing the staff meal-break time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes for the duration of the incident. Whilst far from ideal, this allowed us to have more colleagues and vehicles available during the unprecedented circumstances.
The actions taken did alleviate the pressure and at 21.00 hours the Business Continuity Incident was de-escalated and normal staff meal-break arrangements resumed.
We are sorry for the delays experienced by some of our patients, and that we were not able to provide the service that we endeavour to.
As with any exceptional event at an NHS organisation, we will ensure a thorough debrief takes place this week to review our response to the significant demand and to identify any learning that will help us and our commissioners to identify further steps that may be taken in the future.
EMAS continues to be under significant pressure with the number of emergency calls received. At 20:45 hours EMAS had received over 2,730 calls for assistance. On an average day we receive between 1,800 and 2,000 calls. People are reminded to use our emergency service wisely and visit www.nhs.uk for details of health services that can offer advice and treatment if the illness or injury needs treatment but not as an emergency. Alternatively, advice can be sought from the telephone service NHS111.
Notes to editor:
1. Throughout the incident we continued to prioritise patients. Those categorised as requiring a response to a potentially life threatening incident we’re treated as a top priority. Patients who had a less serious condition were advised to seek alternative care or advised that they would experience a delayed response because of demand on the service.
2. Before the Business Continuity Incident was declared, our Chief Operating Officer, Medical Director and Associate Medical Director went to our EMAS Headquarters to provide extra support and to strategically manage the situation. They remained on site throughout the incident.
3. Prior to New Year’s Eve EMAS issued a media release ‘Don’t start 2017 in an ambulance’ and asked people to enjoy the celebrations but to take heed of our advice about drinking in moderation and staying safe. The release can be found here. Throughout New Year’s Day social media has been used to promote ‘choose well messages’ and to encourage people to only dial 999 in an emergency.