PEOPLE are being urged to ‘think carefully’ before calling an ambulance during industrial action on Wednesday (January 11).
The South Western Ambulance Service said people should only call if it is ‘a life threatening or life altering emergency’.
NHS services remain open during the action, which comes amid a dispute over pay and conditions, but patients are being told they should only call 999 if it is a medical or mental health emergency – when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
Ambulances will still be able to respond in these situations, but this may only be where there is the most immediate risk to life, they said.
Where the situation is not life-threatening, alternative support will be available through NHS 111 online or through calling NHS 111.
Wayne Darch, deputy director of operations at the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I’d firstly like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of my colleagues for their support over the festive period and as we head into a new year.
“On Wednesday, ambulance workers will be taking industrial action, so we’re again calling on the public to help us to help those most in need of our emergency care services.
“The best way the public can help us is by only calling 999 for life threatening emergencies, we absolutely must have crews available for the most life-threatening conditions and we will be prioritising these patients.
“We know there will be patients waiting for an ambulance, and we will get to them as soon as we can. We are sorry that we may be unable to respond as quickly as we would like.
“Patients should be aware that less serious, non-life threatening incidents may not receive a response for the duration of the strike action, or that we will ask people to try and make their own way to an alternative NHS service where it is safe to do so.
“Please be reassured that we are doing all we can to manage winter pressures and the upcoming industrial action, including receiving military support during industrial action days which will allow our ambulance clinicians to be manning more ambulances and reach patients more quickly.
“If you’re waiting for an ambulance, please do not call back asking for an estimated time of arrival. We cannot provide this information and it blocks our lines from other callers reaching us.
“If the condition of a patient is not life-threatening we may direct you to alternative services. So please help us by accessing the right service for the care you need.”