SECAMB ambulance service 'critical' over Easter

South East Coast Ambulance Image copyright SECAMB
Image caption Secamb said staff were working at "an intensity never seen before"

The ambulance service for Surrey, Sussex and Kent has revealed it is working at a "critical level".

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB) said at one point on Thursday 71 calls were on hold as it had insufficient ambulances.

SECAMB said it received more than 9,500 calls to the 999 service over Easter.

Clinical director Andy Newton praised "exhausted" staff and said it was "one of the most difficult periods" in his 10 years.

A SECAMB board meeting in Guildford was told the service remained under pressure.

Image copyright SECAMB

Analysis: BBC South East health correspondent Mark Norman

SECAMB had to call in extra staff, managers and volunteers over the weekend.

As well as responding to Storm Katie, GPs surgeries were closed, some out-of-hours provision was insufficient and hospital accident and emergency departments were incredibly busy.

This is one level away from SECAMB hitting a "nuclear button" of declaring service failure and asking other parts of the NHS for support.

Earlier this month a report found "fundamental failings" in the way the trust delayed responses to 111 calls from December 2014 to February 2015.

SECAMB chief operating officer James Kennedy admitted on Tuesday 999 response times were "poor" this month as demand was 13% higher than last March.

He said crews were working at "an intensity never seen before".

Interim chairman Sir Peter Dixon said there was "no chance" of the trust hitting some of its critical targets.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites