Life saver or time waster? It’s a simple question, but also a crucial one to think about as Midlands Air Ambulance, West Midlands Ambulance Service and the rest of the NHS approaches the busiest time of the year.

Each winter, the number of emergency 999 calls rises significantly when the weather gets colder and especially if the snow arrives. This year WMAS are utilising social media to help people understand some of the challenges staff face. 

From Monday 26th until Friday 30th November, WMAS will be giving you a fascinating insight into the lives of staff as they go about their roles. Staff will highlight some of the crazy calls the control rooms get; tell you what it’s like being out on an ambulance and follow some of the paramedics who operate on rapid response vehicles. You can also follow the paramedics who are able to provide advice to patients over the phone; go out with the doctors who help with primary care calls and see what it is like on the non-emergency side of the service. 

It is hoped this awareness will help the public to make a simple decision to ‘Choose Well’ and help take the pressure off services so that people who really need emergency help, get it more quickly than ever before.

WMAS Director of Service Delivery, Barry Thurston, said: "Nowadays not everyone who calls 999 needs an ambulance or to be taken to hospital. So far this year less than two thirds of patients we see have ended up being taken to hospital; almost a third are treated at the scene by our staff; the final 6% we didn’t send an ambulance resource (car or ambulance) at all. Instead an experienced paramedic provided advice over the phone or recommended that the patient seek medical help from another source e.g. their GP, community healthcare or a minor injuries unit. 

Over the last decade, we have seen the number of 999 calls to non-life threatening conditions rise significantly. Today, the reality is that genuinely life threatening calls make up only around 10% of our work which is why we need the public to make sure they allow us to concentrate on these calls, the ones where every second counts.

Every one of the over 800,000 emergency calls that we receive is triaged so that we can identify the life threatening ones quickly. Please stay calm while we ask you a series of questions – it won’t delay us providing the help you need.

If you dial 999 for a problem which is not a genuine emergency, then you could be delaying ambulances and rapid response vehicles getting to someone who is suffering from a life-threatening condition.  

Ultimately, making a call about a less serious condition could put someone else’s life at risk. That is why we are asking if you are a life saver or a time waster.

Don’t hesitate to call 999 in the case of a genuine life-threatening emergency, such as choking, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, serious blood loss, stroke, unconsciousness.

But please also think whether another part of the NHS would be a better place for you to contact, be that your GP, a minor injuries unit or even just getting advice from your pharmacist."

Have a look at this link to a piece that the BBC’s Inside Out programme did on some of the less serious calls we receive

  •  If you’d like to follow WMAS over the coming week, use these methods;

This guide can also help you decide how best to get the right treatment:

Step 1: Choose self-care for minor ailments

Don't forget to keep your first-aid kit well stocked - ask your pharmacist for advice on treating conditions such as a hangover, a grazed knee, a sore throat, a cough, minor cuts and sprains.

Step 2: Choose a pharmacist for access to over the counter medicines

Get advice on conditions such as tummy upsets, coughs and colds, diarrhoea, minor infections, headaches and travel advice

Step 3: Choose NHS Direct for advice and information 24 hours a day

You can call 0845 46 47 or log for advice if you feel unwell, you are unsure of your condition, are confused or need help

Step 4: Choose a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.

These centres can treat a wide range of minor conditions and you will often be seen much more quickly than if you went to A&E.  Use them for conditions such as deep cuts, eye injuries, severe sprains, suspected fracture, minor head injuries and minor burns and scalds

Step 5: Choose your GP for prescriptions and persistent conditions

As well as making an appointment during the day, all GPs offer an out-of-hours service.  They can help with conditions such as children with a fever, persistent vomiting, ear pain, generally unwell, rashes.

Step 6:

  • Choose A&E or dial 999 for life threatening conditions or illnesses

In an emergency, go to your local A&E department or call 999 for an ambulance.

This includes conditions such as choking, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, drowning, fitting or concussion, serious blood loss, severe burns, scalds or allergic reactions. If you are going to A&E, can you get there by car, public transport or taxi? You will not be seen any more quickly at the hospital if you arrive by ambulance. 

Missions completed since 1991: 50,563 | On average we airlift a child every four days | Road traffic collisions make up around 35% of the incidents we attend | The service airlifts on average four horse riders each week.