The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has reported an unprecedented surge in the number of 999 calls being received across the whole North West region.
The NWAS, who has a major emergency control centre in Preston, deal with more than one million emergency calls a year.
Derek Cartwright, Acting Director of Operations, said: ‘At the moment we are seeing a large increase in the number of 999 calls bring received. Requests for an emergency ambulance are up 18% compared to this time last year.
‘We expect to see and plan for increases of this level during times like Christmas and during periods of severe weather, but currently the majority of calls being received are from genuinely ill people.
‘We would like to reassure the public that potentially life threatening incidents will obviously take priority, however for calls which are not urgent, patients may have to wait a little longer for an emergency response or, once triaged by our system, could be passed onto NHS Direct.
‘People should not be afraid to ring us if they need emergency assistance and we would urge people who are on long-term medication to ensure they renew their prescriptions regularly, take them as prescribed and take care. If you qualify for a flu jab, please speak with your GP. Keep warm, drink plenty of fluids.
‘For those with minor conditions, we ask that you consider what alternatives there are such as your local pharmacy, GP or walk in centre.’
The Preston call centre consists of a call taking suite in which the 999 calls are taken and a dispatch centre, from which the most appropriate and nearest vehicle to the incident is dispatched to the patient.
The call centres have a call pickup target which is set nationally and aims to answer 95% of all 999 calls within five seconds. NWAS has one of the best pick-up rates in the country.