NHS is a precious resource but this resource is finite

Cllr Ketan Sheth

As another week passes, Covid-19 infections in London have continued to fall. This is extremely encouraging news. After almost two years, I’m sure everyone is keen to start moving forward with their lives and moving back as close as we can to the life we knew before the pandemic.

But while the case numbers are moving in the right direction, it was actually some other figures published by the NHS in recent days that I would like to focus on in this blog. In December alone, England’s ambulance services answered more than 925,000 calls to 999. That’s 20% more than December 2020 and means a call came in every three seconds. These are truly incredible numbers, and represents the unwavering commitment and hard work of our emergency services.

London Ambulance Service has told me that as bad as the pressure was for them when Covid first appeared in 2020, 2021 was even more challenging. This might come as a surprise to many people. But as the capital began to open up and all remaining restrictions were removed last July, our health services saw a level of demand never seen before during summer months.

In fact, 2021 was London Ambulance Service’s busiest ever year, receiving a record two million 999 calls. That is simply astounding, and I would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to all of the staff and volunteers at London Ambulance Service.

The NHS is a precious resource. But this resource is finite, so we must use it wisely so the sickest and most seriously injured people get care quickly in their hour of need. We can all do our bit to help. It’s important people only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency. Otherwise, we should take a moment and just think about the many alternatives which are more appropriate. For example, please do visit NHS111 online or call 111 if you need urgent medical advice and are not sure what to do. Our GP surgeries and pharmacies are also open and able to help. Urgent treatment centres are there for those needing attention for something which is serious but not life-threatening. Finally, at this time of New Year’s resolutions, I’m sure we could all do more to look after ourselves from eating healthily to getting more exercise. Prevention, as they say, is better than a cure.

The past 22 months have undoubtedly been exhausting and stressful for all of us, but for those caring for the health of 9 million Londoners, perhaps even more so. We owe all those on the front line tremendous thanks for all they have done and continue to do as we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic and another extremely busy winter. But actions speak louder than words. Doing your bit in one of these ways is perhaps the best way to show thanks to the dedicated staff and volunteers working for our NHS.

Cllr Ketan Sheth is Chair of the NW London Joint Health Scrutiny Committee

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