South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) is calling on “tech-savvy” members of the public to help relatives, friends or neighbours who may find it difficult to access the internet in a bid to get more people using NHS 111 online.
It comes as 999, 111 and patient transport services across the Trust continue to see significant demand – much higher than expected for this time of year.
As a result, people are being urged to utilise 111 online wherever possible as it can provide quick advice on the best healthcare option, including a call back from a trained clinician or nurse, a booked appointment in A&E or advice on self-care.
SCAS provides emergency, urgent care and patient transport to more than four million people across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, as well patient transport for a further three million people in Surrey and Sussex.
“We know what a difficult time this is for everyone and we greatly appreciate the support and understanding of the public as we continue to manage the significant pressures on our 999, 111 and patient transport services,” said Mark Ainsworth, Director of Operations at SCAS.
“The demand on us remains high, in particular on our 111 phone line, so we are again appealing for help from people to alleviate this by utilising 111 online which is a great tool, quick to access and provides instant information and advice.
“However, we know requesting help from the public by urging them to use 111 online isn’t feasible for everyone, particularly those who find it complicated or don’t have the levels of access to technology that others may have.
“Therefore, we are calling on the more tech-savvy members of the public to lend a helping hand their family, friends or neighbours – particularly people who you know live alone – who may find it difficult as, in turn, this will further alleviate the pressure on our 111 call handlers.”
Mr Ainsworth (pictured) said even just offering to support someone who isn’t currently unwell could be beneficial as it means they will have an alternative way of seeking less urgent medical advice when they do require it.
“The more we enable society to have support or access to technology the better as it means we can ensure more people are able to utilise the full range of tools available to them – which is obviously particularly important at great times of stress on the healthcare system,” he said.
People are also being asked to support the Patient Transport Service while it focuses on the discharge of patients from hospitals across the region to free up space for new admissions.
Paul Stevens, Director of Commercial Services at SCAS, said: “People can support us through this challenging period by, wherever possible, finding alternative ways to get to hospital appointments – maybe via family, friends or neighbours, volunteers and community transport or taxis.
“It is also really important that people let us know via the cancellation line 0300 790 0143 if they or a family member has patient transport booked they no longer need so we can use it for another patient.
“We are also keen to hear from anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer car driver for SCAS. Find out more via our website scas.nhs.uk or email email@example.com.”