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South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year for its emergency 999 service.

Christmas celebrations and the great Christmas getaway will begin on Friday 22 December, with office staff finishing work and heading out for celebrations, as well more traffic on the region’s roads as people start to head off to visit friends, family or take a Christmas holiday.

Paul Jefferies, Assistant Director of Operations at SCAS, said:

“We would encourage the public to use 999 and A&E only for life-threatening or serious emergencies; advice they should follow all year round, but particularly during the winter and Christmas period which sees the highest demand across all NHS services. We predict our 999 demand on an hourly basis (normally within 5% accuracy) and then match our resources to these figures by hour of day. Our resourcing over the festive period in South Central is strong, but there are a number of ways members of the public can really help us make sure we can get to our most seriously ill or injured patients as quickly as possible.”

  1. Only calling 999 when someone is suffering a life-threatening illness or injury, for example:
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Persistent, severe chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties, or not breathing at all
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • If you suspect someone is having a heart attack or stroke
  • Severe allergic reaction

If you are experiencing a non-life threatening illness or injury you could consider:

  • Visiting your local pharmacy
  • Access NHS Choices online to check your symptoms and find your nearest service
  • Go to Walk-in Centres and Minor Injuries Units
  • Contact your GP or out of hours GP
  • Contact NHS 111

You could also consider:

  • FIRST Stop – Reading Minster – Fri 22, Sat 23, Sat 30, Sun 31 Dec (21:00-03:00)
  • ICE Bus – Southampton City Centre, Above Bar Street, opposite Cenotaph War Memorial – Fri 22 (20:00-01:30), Sun 31 Dec (22:30-03:30)
  • Minor Injuries & Illness Unit, St Mary’s Treatment Centre, Portsmouth – open 07:30-22:00 Mon-Fri; 08:00-22:00 Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and weekends
  • SOS Service – Oxford City Centre, Cornmarket – Fri 22, Sat 23, Fri 29, Sat 30, Sun 31 Dec (22.45-05.00)
  • Chipping Norton First Aid Unit, War Memorial Community Hospital – weekday evenings 17.00-21.00; Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and weekends 10.00-21.00

In addition you can find some really important information to save A&E and 999 for life-threatening or serious illnesses and injuries. Find out which local Buckinghamshire health services for all other patients are available over Christmas and New Year on

  1. Enjoy your Christmas celebrations, but don’t overdo it!

Christmas involves parties and celebrations and can be a time when people who might not usually drink excessively get a bit carried away. For an enjoyable and safe night out, follow our top tips:

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach – if you’re going out straight from work, have something to eat first (a snack or light meal)
  • Know what you’re drinking – some strong beers and lagers can contain more than a unit of alcohol per pint than standard beers and lagers; a large glass of wine in a pub or bar is 250ml – that’s a third of a bottle.
  • Have a water or non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic drinks
  • If you’re in a group, look after each other and stay together
  • Plan your journey home – book a taxi in advance or agree on who is your designated driver, who will have no alcoholic drinks; make sure no-one is left to walk home alone
  • Steer clear of walking by or entering water if you’ve drunk alcohol – a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream
  • And of course, never drink or take recreational drugs and drive, nor get in a vehicle with a driver who you think may have.
  1. Drive to Arrive

Bad weather makes our roads potentially more dangerous – analysis by SCAS staff has shown that December is the peak month for us in terms of serious road traffic collisions.

  • Allow extra space between your vehicle and the one in front, particularly if road conditions are wet, it is very cold or foggy
  • Check your tires before setting off on a long journey and make sure you have some food, drink and warm clothing or blankets in case of any breakdowns or unplanned delays
  • Keep to the speed limits and lower your speed if weather or road conditions are poor – better to arrive a bit later than not at all
  • If temperatures have been low to or below freezing, take extra care and slow down on all roads, and particularly rural roads which may have been untreated