Amy Milne |

St John Ambulance is experiencing extremely high demand for ambulance services across the country, with incident numbers now exceeding those seen during the Omicron surge.

While high demand during winter is not unusual, this sustained increase in workload has come six weeks earlier than predicted.

In the last three weeks we received 1,588 more calls a week (a 13 percent increase) and 459 more ambulance responses a week (a 6 percent increase) than expected for this time of year. This is combined with an increase in winter illness, with 100 staff on average being off work each day – which is compounded by 130 vacancies nationally.

The increase in demand is impacting both our 111 communications centres and our ability to respond with emergency ambulances.

Callers to our 111 communications centres may experience a delay before their call is answered, and we may not be able to send an ambulance immediately where a problem is non-life threatening.

For this reason, we are asking the public to call their GP or Healthline for non-life-threatening problems, and to reserve ambulances for life or limb threatening emergencies.

Where people do request an ambulance for a non-life-threatening problem, they can expect a call back from a Registered Nurse or Paramedic, who will attempt to provide them the same care and advice that would otherwise be afforded to them if an ambulance crew were to attend the scene.

St John Ambulance has again activated our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Auckland, which will support our operational response across Ambulance Communications, Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS), and Patient Transfer Services. The EOC is tasked will monitoring staffing levels and overseeing the welfare of our people during this busy time.


Please attribute to Dan Ohs, St John Deputy Chief Executive – Ambulance Operations


Examples of life or limb threatening problems

  • severe chest pain or tightness which could indicate a heart attack (note some mild chest discomfort is common with COVID-19 but this should not be severe)
  • difficulty breathing 
  • choking 
  • broken arms or legs where circulation to the hand or foot is compromised.
  • sudden weakness or difficulty talking, which could lead to a stroke 
  • fainting or unconsciousness (inability to be woken)
  • severe bleeding or bleeding that won’t stop.

Examples of avoidable requests for ambulance attendance (actual examples)

  • persons who have been to an ED but have gone home and dialled 111 because the ED wait time was too long
  • persons with COVID who have run out of paracetamol
  • persons wanting to go to hospital but wanting to avoid issues with parking.
  • persons wanting reassurance after waking up from a nightmare.
  • persons requesting that ambulance personnel remove sutures (stitches).


Amy Milne

St John Integrated Communications Advisor

M 0275027523



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