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Bearsted footballer Paul Joyce drives himself to hospital as South East Coast Ambulance Service feels strain

By Claire McWethy

Kent's ambulance crews are under increasing strain to respond to emergencies after it received an extra 150 calls a day compared to last year.

So far this year, the stretched South East Coast Ambulance Service has been rung 565,609 times - compared to 530,985 in the same period in 2013.

The figures come the same week a footballer who was left lying unconscious on the pitch travelled to hospital himself after an ambulance took more than an hour to turn up - double the target time.

The ambulance service is under pressure as emergency calls increase. Picture: Andy Payton

Striker Paul Joyce had just come on as a substitute for Bearsted FC when he clashed with Crockenhill's goalkeeper Chris Dodd, leaving him motionless and needing medical attention.

The club called 999 but after 20 minutes the player had recovered enough to leave the pitch, in Honey Lane, Otham.

He took himself to Maidstone Hospital with a broken nose and fractured cheek, which will require surgery.

A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service said that paramedics had been dispatched within a minute of the call but were diverted to a more serious emergency. A second ambulance was also re-routed.

Paul Joyce was driven to hospital after waiting more than an hour for an ambulance

Bearsted FC secretary Roy Benton said: "I didn't have any signal at the ground so I walked down the lane to wait for the ambulance. I'd been there about half an hour when I heard the game starting again.

"It was annoying not to have it turn up but of course we understood when the circumstances were explained."

An ambulance spokesman said: "We did take longer than we would like but we were extremely busy and two different ambulances were diverted to priority category A calls. We understand this person was in discomfort but we would hope they would understand."

Category A calls are life-threatening conditions where a speedy response may be critical in saving life, such as after a heart attack.

The service has a target of reaching 75% of such incidents within eight minutes of a call.

The ambulance service is now asking for the public’s help to ease strain on the service in non-emergencies.

SECAMB paramedic and senior operations manager James Pavey said: “Summer is always a busy time for us but this year it is proving particularly busy.

“In a real emergency we don’t want people to hesitate in dialling 999 but where someone isn’t in a serious or life-threatening condition we would expect the caller to consider other options.”

People are advised to call 111 for non-emergencies. Health advice can be given on the phone or at the nearest pharmacy or walk-in centre.

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