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Welsh Ambulance Trust

‘999? I’ve eaten a mouldy tomato!’ – Inappropriate calls to Welsh Ambulance Service revealed

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The Welsh Ambulance Service has revealed the most inappropriate calls made to 999 in the past year.

Among them was someone who had eaten a mouldy tomato and someone who had got their plaster cast wet.

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One person with an earring lodged inside their ear asked for a “lift” to the Emergency Department, while another dialled 999 for a papercut.

Of the 470,653 incidents recorded by the service in the last 12 months, nearly a quarter were non-essential, including someone with diarrhoea and someone enquiring about their medication.

In the face of unprecedented demand, the ambulance service is reminding people only to call 999 in a serious or life-threatening emergency.

Chief Executive Jason Killens said: “Our ambulance service exists to help people who are seriously ill or injured, or where there is an immediate threat to their life.

“That’s people who’ve stopped breathing, people with chest pain or breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, choking, severe allergic reactions, catastrophic bleeding or someone who is having a stroke.

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“People with something stuck in their ear still have a clinical need, but calling 999 for that is ill-judged when there are so many other ways to access more appropriate help.

“Non-essential calls represent nearly a quarter of our total 999 calls, and time spent dealing with these could be time spent helping someone in a life or death situation.”

As Covid-19 tightens is grip, the Trust is asking the public to think about the many alternatives to 999.

Director of Operations Lee Brooks said: “Winter is traditionally our busiest period, and we also have a global pandemic to contend with.

“It’s easy to make fun of the people who call 999 foolishly, but actually, these people do have a legitimate clinical need – they just don’t know where to turn for it.

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“We’re asking the public to educate themselves on the NHS services available in their area, of which there are many.

“The symptom checkers on the NHS 111 Wales website are a good place to start for advice and information, or you could phone 111 to speak to a nurse or health information advisor.

“Also think about your local pharmacist, dentist and optician, as well as your minor injuries unit and GP.

“Also ensure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet for things which can be treated at home, like coughs and colds, sore throats and grazed knees.

“Every single one of us has a responsibility to use NHS services wisely and protect them for those who need them most.

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“Help us to help you, and think twice before you call 999.”

Real calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2021

The following are real 999 calls made to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the past year –

Caller: Basically, I had a piercing a few weeks ago in my ear. Everything’s been fine but last night I woke up and the piercing had gone. I can’t find the piercing and it feels like it might be in my ear drum.
Operator: Right, OK.
Caller: Normally I would go to A&E myself but I don’t actually have any money. A lift to A&E would be amazing.

Caller: My neighbour came here and she gave me a sandwich, cheese and tomato. Anyway, I feel quite sick now. I looked at the tomatoes and there’s mildew on them.
Operator: OK, is that why you’re requiring an ambulance?

Caller: I was mucking about with my plaster cast and it’s coming apart. I don’t know whether to get a taxi or an ambulance.
Operator: From the information you’ve given, you require a more detailed assessment by a nurse. An ambulance will not be sent at this time.
Caller: Oh, you’re joking. Are you being serious?
Operator: We’re extremely busy at the moment.
Caller: I’ll get a taxi.

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Caller: I cut my arm, my arm’s cut.
Operator: How did you do that?
Caller: I sliced it on a piece of paper.
Operator: When did this happen?
Caller: About half an hour ago.
Operator: Is there any serious bleeding?
Caller: No.

Operator: Tell me exactly what’s happened.
Caller: Basically, my mum drank apple vinegar but mixed it with water and lemon. Now she has diarrhoea.

Caller: Oh, hi there. Basically, I’ve got my hand in a cast. It’s been in there for three weeks and I’ve got it wet.
Operator: OK.
Caller: It’s not an actual emergency, I just need to get to hospital.

Caller: What it is, right, I’ve got different medication and I don’t know whether I can take these or not now.
Operator: What’s your telephone number?
Caller: I don’t want an ambulance, I just don’t know if I can take my meds or not.

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Christmas

Christmas Day ambulance workers to enjoy festive lunch thanks to generous businesses

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Welsh Ambulance Service staff working on Christmas Day will be able to enjoy a traditional festive lunch thanks to the generosity of pubs and restaurants across Wales.

Hospitality businesses from every corner of the country have stepped in, many free of charge, to feed more than 500  colleagues working a day shift at all our  ambulance stations, contact centres and make ready depots.

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The goodwill gesture brings a welcome slice of normality for those away from their families and friends on Christmas Day.

Judith Bryce, the Trust’s Assistant Director of Operations (National Operations and Support), said: “We operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year which means many of our colleagues  will miss the bulk of Christmas Day at home with loved ones whilst on duty.

“We are extremely grateful to all of the businesses who have come forward once again to provide meals – especially after another challenging pandemic year where this gesture continues to mean a lot to us as a service and to individuals.”

Hampers being prepared by the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (Image: WAST)

Also this year, the Trust is preparing and delivering hampers filled with festive treats to all of its stations, premises and contact centres.

In partnership with local delivery firms, 164 baskets of favourites such as mince pies, chocolates, hot drinks and crisps will be distributed across the country, funded once again through the Trust’s Charitable Funds.

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Swansea

Man who survived being hit by van thanks ambulance crew who saved his life

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A man who survived being hit by a van has been reunited with the ambulance crew who attended him in his hour of need.

Ashley Lovering, 64, from Swansea Marina, was involved in the freak accident which nearly claimed his life and left him in hospital for 16 weeks after he stumbled whilst out photographing trucks near the M4 at Morriston, Swansea.

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Last week, he was reunited in much happier circumstances with the team of paramedics and students who he considers saved his life.

Ashley said: “I’ve had a keen interest in transport all my life really.

“I was out taking pictures of trucks for my popular Facebook page and a friend of mine had phoned saying he was out with his new truck so I decided to head back to meet him.

“Instead of going around the road to my car I decided to walk down the bank and I think the ground crumbled a bit as I felt myself running all of a sudden.

“And down I went into the road and whack into the side of a Transit van.”

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After the impact, Ashley, a retired chauffer and British Steel worker, was awake but knew he was badly injured.

He continued: “Somebody had seen it and came along to ring an ambulance and police.

“My mobile phone in my pocket had dialled my friend back so he arrived and someone notified my wife who also came.

“I recall the ambulance staff coming, I think there were about seven of them in total, and I remember someone pulling my leg to get the bone back inside – that hurt.

“They must have given me something then as I saw my wife outside the ambulance as they took me in on the bed and the next thing I remember was waking up in hospital in Cardiff.”

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Ashley had ruptured two discs in his back, lacerated a kidney, bruised his bowel, had an open fracture to his femur and both his shoulders required extensive surgery with one being completely replaced and the other rebuilt with plates and pins.

He spent eight weeks in Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales and a further eight weeks in Swansea’s Morriston Hospital receiving treatment and recovering.

He said: “I’ve been back home 15 weeks now and the physio comes to my house.

“I also go to the gym three times a week to do recovery work which helps me.

“I’ve managed to walk into town without crutches now which is about a mile and a half there and back.”

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For Ashley, this was the first time in his life he had been in an ambulance and the first time he’d been in hospital too.

“I wanted to meet and thank the ambulance crews as I was able to thank everybody in the hospital in person,” he said.

“The doctors, the nurses, the man who cleaned the room, the lady who made the coffee, everyone, but I never got to see the ambulance staff again.

“They were fantastic and they saved my life really.

“I’ve even written to the police to thank them for closing the road and making everything safe that day.”

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There were a total of six Welsh Ambulance Service staff and two student paramedics who attended Ashley that day due to the complexities of his injuries.

Paramedic Beth Hewes, 42 of Swansea, said: “Ashley’s accident happened on the main road leading to Morriston Hospital and luckily a Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (NEPTS) crew were passing by and stopped to assist him and make the call.

“I was on duty in a rapid response vehicle that day with a student paramedic and we were heading back to base when the call came in and were the first emergency crew on scene.

“We were soon joined by an ambulance and a second ambulance to support us and convey the patient once we had him stable.”

Despite his injuries and the awful pain he was in, Beth was full of praise for Ashley’s calm nature.

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“He was the perfect patient really,” she said.

“He was very polite and even said thank you every time we gave him pain relief.

“We had had to call ahead to the trauma unit in Cardiff and also seek permission to administer further pain medications.

“Even with an open fracture in his leg he was saying the majority of the pain was in his shoulder.

“It was great teamwork and communication on this job and the NEPTS crew were a great help to us.

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“Everybody involved was fantastic and the police did a great job in making sure we were safe from traffic to work.”

Speaking of the reunion, Ashley said: “It was a really lovely day and I ended up crying.

“It was so nice to meet everyone who helped me and be able to thank them properly.

“I had a friend of mine who runs a diecast truck company make them a model ambulance each to keep as a token of my thanks.”

Beth added: “It was a very humbling meeting and really, really nice.

“I’ve been a paramedic 15 years now and I’ve never met a patient afterwards.

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“It was very emotional but once we all got chatting it was lovely.

“I know myself and the other crews and students will all treasure the model ambulances he had made for us and that was a lovely touch.

“We all wish him very well in the future.”

(All images: Wales Ambulance Trust)

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Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire dad-of-three thanks emergency services that helped save his life

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A Pembrokeshire dad-of-three has thanked the emergency services that helped save his life.

In February, Dai Davies was getting ready for bed when he suddenly collapsed and had a cardiac arrest.

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Dai’s wife Taryan and son Caleb, 18, helped save his life as they performed CPR on Dai whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

When the paramedics arrived, Dai’s heart was in an abnormal rhythm and not beating normally.

The paramedics took over resuscitation, delivered two shocks and the second shock brought his heart back into a normal rhythm.

When the Wales Air Ambulance Charity helicopter arrived with its overnight critical care team – Dr Matt O’Meara, Critical Care Practitioner Marc Allen and pilot Nobby Norris – Dai started to come around and became agitated and wasn’t breathing effectively.

They rapidly assessed him and found his oxygen levels were low and needed to take over his breathing.

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To do this they gave him a general anaesthetic and then placed him on a ventilator to breathe for him.

The procedure is delicate, complex and time-critical.

It is only possible outside of a hospital environment through the Wales Air Ambulance and the fact that they have experienced consultants on board.

It is one of the many emergency department-standard treatments that the Charity is now able to deliver at the scene of an incident – improving the chances of survival and recovery.

Once the on-scene treatment was complete, Dai was airlifted directly to the cardiac centre at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

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The flight from his home in Neyland to hospital took just 25 minutes by air, a journey that would have taken approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes by road.

Speaking of the lifesaving service, Dai said: “I am forever grateful to the ambulance service and the Wales Air Ambulance for the work they did and to get me to the hospital as quickly as they did.

“I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”

The father-of-three was a keen runner and cyclist before he was taken ill, reflecting on whether there were any signs that could have indicated a potential problem, Dai said: “I had a pain in my back whilst I was refereeing a match about five years ago.

“I had MRI scans and physiotherapy and continued to live with the on-off pain.

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“Since it happened, I’ve been reading up on cardiac arrests and these symptoms were a big indicator.”

The learning support assistant, at Haverfordwest High School, underwent surgery to have three stents put in and was discharged from hospital a few days later.

He said: “I’m feeling okay. I’ve had three stents put in, lost 10 kilograms in weight through cardiac rehab and cut out all the nice things.

“My wife has also bought me a new peloton bike to continue my fitness at home.

“My children, Chloe, Caleb and Aidan, all notice a change in me since the cardiac arrest, they think I’m more placid now.”

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Throughout his recovery Dai recieved expert guidance and help by having personal training from cardiac rehabilitation instructor Dave Braithwaite.

Dai is now looking forward to the future.

Jo Yeoman is a patient liaison nurse who works in partnership with the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.

She said: “We are delighted to see that Dai is on the road to recovery.

“Dai’s story demonstrates the vital chain of survival, from CPR, defibrillation and then critical care.

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“Taryan and Caleb were incredible and the partnership work between the Wales Air Ambulance and Welsh Ambulance Service medics ensured that Dai had the best possible care before reaching the specialists at Morriston Hospital.

“The Wales Air Ambulance Charity introduced an overnight helicopter in December 2020, making it a 24/7 service.

“The Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to maintain the 24/7 operation and Dai’s story highlights the importance of having an air ambulance service that runs during the night as well as the day.”

Christian Newman, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Locality Manager in Pembrokeshire, said: “In a cardiac arrest, every second counts, and the CPR started by Dai’s wife and son gave him the best possible chance of survival.

“Our joint efforts with Wales Air Ambulance colleagues, and later the care that Dai had from the specialists at Morriston Hospital, just goes to show how important partnership working is to a patient’s care.

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“We wish Dai all the very best on his continued recovery.”

(Lead image: Welsh Ambulance Trust)

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