Last weekend was the busiest in eight years for paramedics, Yorkshire Ambulance Service has confirmed.
And following the highest-ever level of calls since its formation in 2006, Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) bosses are reminding the public to ‘Choose Well’ when they are feeling unwell.
Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, paramedics were called to more than 1,000 high priority “Red” calls each day.
But they also received a similar amount of non-urgent calls every day.
The Examiner understands ambulance bosses were forced to cancel all meal breaks for ambulance crews because of the surge in calls.
A Huddersfield paramedic, who did not want to be named, said: “Some people call an ambulance because they think they will be seen quicker at Casualty and not have to wait.
“This is wrong.
“Crews had to work 10 to 12 hour shifts without a meal break. Ambulance crews are at breaking point and who cares?”
YAS has put information on its website to help people find other forms of care other than an emergency ambulance.
“Winter and the festive season are always challenging for us,” said Dr David Macklin, Executive Director of Operations at YAS.
“Whilst we will always respond to medical emergencies where it is believed someone needs time-critical help, we often find our crews are caught up dealing with patients with non-urgent conditions where alternative care would have been more appropriate.
“These calls divert emergency staff away from those with potentially life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack, stroke or breathing difficulties and can cause dangerous delays.
“Please think twice before you pick up your phone to dial 999.
“Only call for an ambulance in an emergency when it is obvious that you or another person has a serious or life-threatening illness or injury and needs time-critical help.”
People with minor illnesses and injuries should make an appointment with their GP, visit a walk-in-centre or minor injuries unit or call NHS 111.
Pharmacists are also able to give advice on some conditions and injuries.
Health officials are also urging people to stock up on medication to manage common health conditions, make sure they have sufficient prescription medicine to last over Christmas and remember to pack their medication if they are going away.
Examples of when you should call 999 for an ambulance (Please note this is not an exhaustive list): chest pain, difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness, heavy loss of blood, severe burns and scalds, choking, fitting/convulsions, severe allergic reaction, head injury. Examples of inappropriate 999 calls: ear pain, toothache, stubbed toe, broken finger nail, sore throat, hangover.