Yorkshire’s ambulance service is appealing to residents to think before calling 999 over the festive period.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) is expecting a significant increase in call volumes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic alongside normal winter pressures. The easing of rules that enabled people to celebrate Christmas is also likely to have an impact on demand.

The service receives an average of 2,000 calls every day but it is anticipated that on its busiest days on New Year’s Day there could be as many as 800 more calls than usual.

An additional 70 ambulances will be on the road across Yorkshire to cope with these increases. Patients will also benefit from the recent introduction of video consultations which enable clinicians in the Emergency Operations Centre to gain a better understanding of a caller’s symptoms to help decide on the most appropriate response. This means the service may be able to signpost patients for more appropriate care without the need for an ambulance response.

Nick Smith, Executive Director of A&E Operations for YAS, encouraged the public to use the service wisely and warned that unnecessary calls could delay responses to those most in need of emergency help.

He said: “We are always really busy at this time of the year but the pandemic brings a unique set of challenges and our planning is based on being able to respond to reasonable worse case scenarios.

“We always prioritise our response to the most seriously ill and injured patients. The public have a really important role to play in knowing when to call 999 and when another NHS service is more appropriate.

“If someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, you should call 999 immediately. If not, please consider other options such as 111, your GP or pharmacy.”

Genuine 999 calls include chest pain, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, severe loss of blood, severe burns and scalds, choking, fitting/convulsions, drowning, severe allergic reaction, heart attack, stroke and major trauma such as a serious road traffic accident, stabbing, shooting, fall from height or a serious head injury.

The Trust’s NHS 111 service has increased staffing levels to support a predicted 58% increase in calls between 23 and 29 December.