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Calling 999 doesn't always mean an ambulance or a trip to hospital...


North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is launching a new campaign to show how it helps patients get the rightcare. On road, on foot, over the phone and in the sky; there are a number of ways the Service can help to make sure patients get the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

NWAS saw a five per cent increase in the number of 999 calls received (during the period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013) - 1,170,154 compared to 1,113,398 the previous year. Yet only a third of these calls were categorised as life-threatening.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the variety of ways in which the Service can help, including how it seeks alternatives for those patients whose conditions are deemed less serious - keeping ambulances free for those who need them most.

From today, a film featuring ambulance staff and volunteers will be available to watch on the Trust's social media pages and website: www.nwas.nhs.uk. The film shows how the ambulance service endeavours to get the right care for each patient's specific needs and this won't necessarily be an ambulance.

In the case of non-life-threatening incidents, the Service can do various things to help before an ambulance is dispatched - it utilises Specialist Paramedics to call back patients whose conditions are less serious; they can put patients in touch with their GP or a community specialist, advise them to visit their local Urgent Care Centre, book them an emergency appointment with a dentist or give self-care advice over the phone.

If an ambulance response is appropriate, there's more than the traditional ambulance crew available to help. The Service uses paramedics in cars and on cycles, air ambulances and trained volunteers too.

After assessment, ambulance staff have more options available than Emergency Departments - they can take patients to urgent care centres, refer them to a healthcare professional in the community or leave them at home with self-care advice.

Derek Cartwright, Acting Director of Operations at North West Ambulance Service, said: "The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of what people can expect when they call on us for help.

"Not all patients are taken to the nearest emergency department; instead, they are assessed or treated by highly skilled clinicians who work out the best place for them to get help for their specific needs. This is all about getting the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

"999 should always be called for an immediately life threatening or serious incident and an emergency ambulance will always be dispatched to those patients who need one.  What we want to do is raise awareness of all the routes to care available to the public, and to highlight that if you go to the right place first, you could be on the route to recovery much more quickly.

In addition to the film, NWAS's website boasts an interactive quiz so you can see how much you know about calling 999.