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St John Prepares for an Increased Demand Over Winter

10 JUNE 2019

With winter fast approaching, it’s a good time to think about keeping well over the colder months.

Last year ambulance call outs for flu-like symptoms tripled in July and August, putting increased demand on the wider health system.

St John wants people to keep well and seek treatment early to reduce the risk of minor illnesses becoming critical and needing emergency treatment.

St John Medical Director Dr Tony Smith says the best way to stay healthy is to get your flu jab, avoid contact with people who are unwell, and wash and dry your hands well.

The influenza vaccine is free to those at risk, including anyone over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic or serious health conditions.

Dr Smith says that colds and flu are not the only reason for the rise in medical calls to the 111 system over the winter months.

“We see an increase in all illness including heart disease and respiratory illness such as pneumonia and chest infections. and it is especially important for people at risk to be immunised”.

“Keep on top of regular conditions and medications and see your family doctor early if you become unwell or call Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116. If your doctor is closed, your local Accident and Medical clinic is there to help. If it is an emergency, call 111 for an ambulance”.

Last year St John responded to nearly 70,000 incidents during July and August and the priority is always to send emergency ambulances as quickly as possible to those in most urgent need.

To cope with the extra workload, St John puts on additional resources including ambulances, rapid response and transport vehicles.

Some non-urgent calls are triaged over the phone through the St John 111 Clinical Hub where nurses and paramedics determine the most appropriate help and treatment for the patient, freeing up resources for life-threatening and critical incidents.

St John Director of Clinical Operations Norma Lane says staff welfare is especially important in the cold weather.

“We provide warmer garments as part of our uniform and encourage our people to take up the offer of the flu vaccine. The extra workload in the winter takes its toll on everyone working in the health sector, and our occupational health services help keep our people safe and well during this period.”

St John asks everyone to look after themselves and others in the community, and to check on neighbours and family who might be vulnerable during this time.


The Healthline number is 0800 611 116, calls are free and Healthline nurses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


If you are not registered with a family doctor, you can find doctors around your area at It has information on the clinic such as prices, clinic hours, and which doctors work there.


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