I see the Scotland section of the BBC News website joins in the quite remarkable mainstream media and opposition party ‘outrage’ after the Scottish Health Secretary reportedly said on Radio Scotland that people should only call an ambulance if ‘absolutely critical’.
The BBC website notes: “Scotland’s health secretary has been warned he could put lives at risk after urging people to “think twice” before calling an ambulance. Opposition politicians condemned the comments, which were made in a BBC radio interview, as “reckless” and worse. No doubt we will have more of this on Reporting Scotland this evening (Wednesday).
As so often, calm reflection is absent from the BBC, most newspaper coverage but more importantly, it is absent from opposition politicians in Holyrood. And of course none of these sources offer any ‘perspective’.
It’s not hard to come by the latter – just use a Google search. This reveals the same sort of plea on behalf of 999 ambulance services across the UK over the past decade or more. Here are just a sub-set of many examples:
1: NHS Wales Ambulance Service (present website)
‘Think carefully before you dial 999: Many of the calls we receive are not life threatening emergencies. Please think carefully before you dial 999 – you can help save lives.’
2: Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust (present website)
‘Keep ambulances for real emergencies’ and ‘You should call 999 in the event that emergency medical assistance is required in a life-threatening situation following a serious accident, injury or illness. ‘
‘In the case that it is not a life-threatening emergency, and immediate medical attention is not required, please consider other options before calling 999: …’
Does ‘please consider’ not amount to ’think twice’ in this context?
3: Daily Devon online news, 28 August, 2020
‘South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is urging people to “think twice” before calling 999 for an ambulance this Bank Holiday weekend.’
4: NHS England (present website)
‘Urgent medical help: If you need urgent medical help, use the regular NHS 111 online service.’ And: ‘Call 111 if you need urgent help for a child under 5 or cannot get help online.’
‘Emergency medical help: For life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance.’
So before calling 999 think about whether your need is ‘urgent’ or a ‘life threatening emergency’ – yes?
5. NHS North East Ambulance Service (website – referring to last Christmas)
‘Plea to use 999 and A&E responsibly’: Douglas McDougall, Strategic Head of Operations at North East Ambulance Service, said: “Please think before you pick up the phone, do you really need an ambulance or is there another way of you getting help?’
And this is not a new thing!
6. Warrington Guardian, 21 November 2010
Headline: ‘Think twice before dialling 999 or visiting hospital.’ : NHS North West trust ‘is now calling on people to support their emergency services by stopping and thinking about whether they really need to go to A&E or call 999.’
In short, this plea to the public from various NHS bodies to ‘think twice’ about whether calling 999 for an ambulance is necessary and the appropriate action to take is commonplace across the UK – and seemingly without any noticeable political or media condemnation. It’s common sense – and even more feasibly nowadays when a phone call to the national NHS helpline can quickly resolve any doubts over what the best course of action is – ambulance needed or not.