Callouts for mental health issues rise significantly

St John’s emergency workload statistics for last year show that the biggest increase in demand in the Northland region, which includes the Hibiscus Coast, was for mental health related issues and suicide attempts – this type of callout was 37.3 percent higher than in 2018.

This is far higher than the 10 percent increase nationally in mental health related callouts. The group with the largest increase in this type of callout was those aged 70-79, but the number of males calling for mental health reasons also increased and they now make up 47 percent of all mental health callouts, up from 39 percent in 2018.

St John operations director Norma Lane says in the last six months alone, St John has responded to nearly 20,000 people who are in some form of mental health crisis.

In Northland, St John also saw a 20 percent increase in the number of callouts to industrial or machinery-related accidents, and falls/back injuries were 16.7 percent up. There was an 11.3 percent increase in the number of callouts categorised as assault or rape in this area, compared with a 0.7 percent increase nationally. Callouts for allergies/rash/medical reactions/stings were 15.4 percent up in Northland with a 5.7 percent increase nationwide.

On the other hand, the number of callouts in the Northland region for traffic accidents was 11.1 percent down and for traumatic injuries, 10.7 percent down.

Every year the overall demand for ambulance services increases by approximately four percent and last year St John responded to over 440,000 incidents – almost 18,000 more than in 2018.

Ms Lane says that in addition to the increasing number of responses, ambulance officers are attending more complex cases and this is one reason job cycle times have increased by nearly six percent in the last two years.

Despite the challenges faced by the emergency service, Ms Lane says St John has worked hard to improve outcomes for patients and safety for ambulance officers and is in year three of a four-year programme to fully crew all ambulances.

“Ambulances are now fully crewed 97 percent of the time and we are on track for all ambulances being double crewed in 2021,” she says.

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