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Darlington Football Club

Ray Simpson / 15th February 2021

Darlington player urges public to use health services wisely

Darlington player urges public to use health services wisely

Think twice before ringing 999

Darlington player urges public to use health services wisely

(Released in partnership with the North Eastern Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust)

In the week that Darlington FC’s rearranged National League rematch with Boston United is due to take place, defender Nicky Hunt has urged the public to use the NHS wisely following a delayed ambulance response to his injury on the football pitch.

The last time these two teams met on 10 November, Nicky was injured in an accident on the pitch. He drifted in and out of consciousness for 66 minutes before an ambulance arrived.

Speaking ahead of the game, which is due to take place on 16 February, he said the ambulance delay to his accident on the pitch highlighted pressures being felt on the NHS and ambulance service.

Nicky said: “I’ve been told since my injury that there were ambulances queuing at some hospitals and diverting other patients to hospitals across the North East on that night because of a huge demand on NHS services.

“I ended up being taken to North Tees Hospital in the end to be treated because so many people were either calling 999 or going to A&E to be seen by a doctor instead of seeking treatment and help elsewhere.

“We’re being asked at the moment on TV to protect the NHS and save lives and my message to everyone is to only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and don’t go to A&E unless you need to be there.”

While NEAS continues to be the fastest responding ambulance service in the country to life-threatening calls (known as category one incidents), Nicky’s head injury was assessed to be a category two incident. In nine out of ten cases, an ambulance should arrive within 40 minutes to these types of calls. Nicky’s ambulance arrived 26 minutes longer than that.

Helen Ray, chief executive of NEAS, said: “Firstly I would like to say sorry to Nicky for our delay and I’m pleased he has made a full recovery.

“During the first wave of the pandemic, additional ambulance resources were provided to us that meant we achieved our response times for all categories of patients.

“This additional funding was welcome, but its short-term nature has not allowed us to develop a sustainable improvement to keep our patients safe.

“There is an opportunity after the pandemic to reset this arrangement, which would allow us to plan for the longer term, improve safety and performance, and ensure NEAS is resourced at a level that allows it to fully meet response time standards.”

She added that while previous investment in NEAS now meant the trust was fully staffed with paramedics – which has not always been the case – demand had continued to outstrip resources as our population is living longer; and with more chronic conditions, putting a greater strain on 999 services even before the pandemic started.

Darlington FC chief executive officer David Johnston said: “We urge people to think before they dial 999 or attend A and E, and avoid stretching resources that are already being pushed to the limit. If it’s not an emergency, consider other services, such as 111 online, your GP or pharmacy.”