Patients urged to ‘take themselves to A&E’ after ambulance service declares critical incident

Patients have been urged to “take themselves to A&E” after an ambulance service declared a critical incident following an IT failure.

South East Coast Ambulance Service Trust said on Wednesday morning it had experienced a “significant IT issue overnight”.

Tom Pullen, an operations manager at the service, urged patients to “only call 999 for a life threatening emergency, and 111 for urgent issues that cannot wait”.

“Alternatives include taking yourself to A&E or calling your GP,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Trust said contingency plans have been implemented and people should continue to call 999 if they are facing a serious emergency. 

The service covers an area of 3,600 square miles, including Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, and North East Hampshire.

The Trust did not respond to The Telegraph’s requests about what had caused the issue.

‘Staff are working extremely hard’

In a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning, the trust said: “Following a significant IT issue overnight, we have declared a Critical Incident this morning – 17 Nov 2021.

“Staff are working extremely hard as we continue to respond to patients. We would ask that you consider alternatives to 999, inc NHS 111 online, unless absolutely essential.”

It is the second IT incident to affect ambulance services in as many weeks. The East of England Ambulance Service Trust declared a critical incident last week after its phone lines and IT systems failed.

In a message to staff, reported by the Eastern Daily Press, the trust said the issue left a “significant number” of 999 calls “outstanding/uncovered”.

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