South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is urging communities across the region to use its services responsibly as it braces for a challenging winter.

Increased flu cases, colder temperatures and ongoing disruption due to ambulance handover delays exacerbate the challenge.

The trust anticipates significant and sustained demand for its 999 services, a situation mirrored by health and social care organisations across the country.

In preparation, an extensive winter plan has been developed, encouraging locals to take concrete steps in aiding the service.

Advice includes: only call 999 in life-threatening situations, refrain from calling back unless conditions worsen or the ambulance is no longer needed, and for non-life-threatening emergencies, seek help through NHS 111, GPs, or pharmacies.

Somerset County Gazette: South Western Ambulance Service is anticipating an increased use of their services this winter

Wayne Darch, deputy director of operations at SWASFT, said: "We know this winter is going to be very challenging for us, which is why we’re urging local communities to use our services responsibly, and choose the right care for them."

Mr Darch stressed the importance of proper service use to prioritise those most in need and asking the public to act with consideration towards working staff.

He explained: "Please be kind to them, they are working hard under huge daily pressures."

For the upcoming winter, SWASFT will trial 'Care Co-ordination Hubs' for the first time, bringing together multi-disciplinary teams of ambulance service clinicians and health and social care professionals.

These hubs will allow patients real-time access to urgent and health care services based within the community or secondary care, delivering the right care in the right place.

The initiative will both improve patient outcomes and quality of care.

Exemplifying the initiative's benefits, a patient receiving palliative care accessed a customised end-of-life pathway at home thanks to the hub.

Another patient with a catheter issue was treated by a district nurse, bypassing emergency department conveyance by ambulance.

A third patient, who fell, was assessed by a paramedic on scene who, after discussions with a GP in the Care Co-ordination Hub, managed to secure a frailty bed for the patient, again avoiding the necessity of a visit to the ED.

A successful trial of these hubs has taken place in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon, and Wiltshire, with new hubs launching in Devon and Cornwall, providing locals with accessible and valuable healthcare alternatives during the forthcoming winter season.