South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is urging people to use its services wisely and be aware of the demand its 999 and NHS 111 services will face across the four-day Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

SECAmb expects to handle up to 10,000 calls to its 999 service and in excess of 20,000 calls to NHS 111.

By planning ahead, including ordering repeat prescriptions, checking household medicine supplies, being aware of local pharmacy opening hours, as well as only dialling 999 in an emergency, people can help SECAmb and the wider NHS manage demand.

Across the 2023 Easter Bank Holiday weekend, SECAmb’s NHS 111 service handled more than 1,300 potentially avoidable calls requesting repeat prescriptions and a total of more than 21,000 calls.

SECAmb executive director of operations, Emma Williams, said: “Our teams will be there for people who need us but help is also available from pharmacists, or NHS 111 online.”

When to call 999: If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following: heart attack (eg, chest pain for more than 15 minutes); sudden unexplained shortness of breath; heavy bleeding; unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained consciousness); and traumatic back/spinal/neck pain.

You should also call an ambulance if: you think the patient’s illness or injury is life-threatening; you think the illness or injury may become worse, or even life-threatening on the way to hospital; moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury; and the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel.