St John urges public to prioritise their health & wellbeing this winter

Elliot Steel |

The most important thing you can do this winter is be immunised against influenza and seek advice from a health professional if you are unwell, St John Medical Director Dr Tony Smith says.

Each winter the surge of 111 ambulance calls continues to increase, which despite St John’s best efforts to triage and treat people in-home, places a lot of pressure on the ambulance service and the hospital emergency departments.

St John has issued five key messages to the public to help them look after themselves and each other this winter:

  1. Choose well – immunise against flu, treat minor symptoms at home.
  2. Seek help –  if symptoms persist, call your doctor, Healthline or visit your pharmacy or health professional early for advice.
  3. Prepare – if you have a medical condition such as asthma or COPD or something where symptoms exacerbate during the colder months, keep on top of your routine medication
  4. Self-care – common colds, coughs, sore throats can usually be very well managed at home with the assistance of your local pharmacy
  5. In an emergency – call 111, and we will find the most appropriate help for you through a clinical assessment. This may not be an ambulance or transport to an emergency department, but you will get the right care, at the right time.

“This is the first year the St John 111 Clinical Hub has been in place nationwide, helping triage emergency 111 calls to make sure callers receive the most appropriate advice and treatment. Likewise, this helps us to ensure that the patients in the most urgent need are receiving an appropriately urgent response,” Dr Smith says.

The latest flu season has been catastrophic internationally, particularly Europe and the UK, and St John has taken a number of measures to ensure the ambulance service is well prepared.

“We have done thorough data analysis showing us where the peaks and troughs, hot spots, and demand surges are, so that we can appropriately allocate extra resource to those areas, be it more ambulances or more rostered ambulance officers, St John has taken every step available to it to help ease winter health pressures,” Dr Smith says.

We are asking the public to also play their part by engaging with their GPs and pharmacies early and follow our Choose Well advice.


Winter wellness – who to call if you or your whanau are unwell?

  • Call your family doctor first – calls are      answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Call Healthline if you don’t have a family      doctor, or if you’re feeling unwell but not sure if you need to see a      doctor, or if you need urgent advice from a nurse. Call Healthline free on      0800 611 116, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    • Phone calls are free – including from a       mobile phone
    • Interpreters are available
    • Nurses are       skilled in advising the most appropriate next steps.
  • If it’s an emergency or you’re just unsure, call      111 and we will find the most appropriate care for you.

Useful stats:

  • In 2017, the winter month surge saw an extra 4000 ambulance call-outs in July and 3000 in August.
  • Based on the influenza surveillance last year we estimate there were more than 18,000 hospital admissions on average nationally with flu in New Zealand.1
  • Pacific peoples had more than double the national rates. Māori had higher than national average rates.
  • Children under one had almost 7000 hospital admissions, this is nearly four times the national average rate. For those over 65 hospital admission rates are two to three times higher.  And for those over 80 rates are more than seven times the national average. Pregnant women are nearly five times more likely to be admitted to hospital than women who are not pregnant. Around 12,000 New Zealanders visited their GP for influenza-related illness (ILI) from Jan 4 to August 27, 2017.It is estimated around 400 Kiwis die from influenza or its complications on average each year.
  • Flu immunisation is free for many people – visit or call 0800 466 863 for influenza information.
Subscribe to our RSS FeedLook after the teams who look after you.St John First Aid TrainingFeel Safe with a St John Medical Alarm