Text messages were sent to 999 callers who were considered low priority rather than ambulance or paramedics.
Text messages are being sent to 999 callers deemed low priority in lieu of ambulances and paramedics due to lack of crew, the Trust has acknowledged.
- Six out of ten ambulance trusts in the UK admit to sending SMS alerts to callers.
- The Trust claims it will only happen if the patient is deemed low priority
999 callers are being texted instead of ambulances due to a shortage of crew.
Six out of 10 ambulance trusts in England admit they now send SMS alerts to callers if medical teams are unable to respond first.
Trusts that do this claim that it will only be done if the patient is deemed low priority or to allow for a “welfare check” during times of extreme pressure.
A total of 511 people died before reaching A&E last year due to malfunctioning emergency response systems and a shortage of ambulances, according to recent reports.
This is more than double the 220 people who died in similar circumstances the previous year.
999 callers are being texted instead of ambulances due to lack of crew
MoS’ investigation into the ambulance texts began after an elderly Arsenal fan collapsed at a north London train station after last Saturday’s home game with difficulty breathing.
A passerby called 999 and was told an ambulance would arrive within 20 to 45 minutes. Twenty minutes later, a text was sent to the caller’s phone stating that nothing was available and that the patient could be “give water”.
The London Ambulance Trust Service later said, “Our records show that the patient left the scene voluntarily within an hour of the initial call before the ambulance arrived.
“We will only send text messages when appropriate and when the patient is not in a life-threatening emergency.”
Last week, the East of England Ambulance Service admitted it had spent £129,000 on taxis to transport 27 patients to hospital with Category 1 calls requiring lifesaving or resuscitation.
A further 281 cabs were used for Category 2 patients who had suffered conditions such as heart attack, stroke, sepsis and burns. The Trust is now using text messages to answer calls on “certain occasions such as updating callers during times of extreme pressure and conducting welfare checks.”
The North East Ambulance Service offers advice such as “back up what your health advisor said on the phone,” “call back if anything changes,” and “make sure an ambulance is planned.” Send a text just to estimated waiting time”.
The North West Ambulance Service said it may send texts warning of delays in times of high demand or industrial action.
The North East Ambulance Service advises people to send texts only to “back up what the health advisor said on the phone” and “call back if anything changes.”
Additionally, “We will never send a text message in lieu of emergency response. We will only end the call after an assessment of the patient by the call handler or clinician.”
East Midlands Ambulance Service said:
“This helps keep phone lines free for calls of a life-threatening nature.”
The South Western Ambulance Service, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, South Central Ambulance Service, and West Midlands Ambulance Service all refused to send text messages to callers.