Embattled ambulance service bosses invoked emergency procedures, including cancelling all breaks for staff, as record numbers of people made 999 calls.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service asked paramedics and ambulance staff to work ten or 12 hours without any rest last Saturday.

Extra staff were called in amid a surge of more than a third in the level of “Red” category 999 calls – the most urgent life threatening calls.

There were 4,082 calls over the weekend of which 2,095 were categorised as immediately life threatening.

Trade union Unison called on staff to go home early to mitigate the lack of a 45 minute break in the middle of shifts.

Meal breaks have been at the centre of a long-running dispute between the service and both Unison and Unite unions.

Pressure on the service has been building throughout the month with Yorkshire one of the worst hit services in England.

Snowfall, icy conditions and freezing temperatures added to the ambulance service’s headache, causing further delays for vehicles responding to emergencies.

Patients opting to call the region’s NHS 111 urgent care telephone service have also suffered lengthy delays as call levels increased by more than half with almost 20,000 callers on December 27 and 28.

Ambulance bosses have now called for people to stay safe on New Year’s Eve and only call 999 when it is obvious that someone has a serious or life-threatening illness or injury.

Dr David Macklin, Executive Director of Operations, said: “Our staff and volunteers across all areas have been brilliant over the extended Christmas period.

“Snow and icy conditions on top of an increased demand for our most urgent calls has meant that they have had to work above and beyond their normal hours, often without breaks.

“We have had to strictly prioritise our calls to ensure that the people who most needed our help received it.

Dr David Macklin of Yorkshire Ambulance Service
 

“This has meant that some people have not got the response they expected or wanted but I am sure they will understand that patients with life-threatening illnesses and serious injuries should be cared for first.

“This increase in demand to 999 is unlikely to drop over the New Year period and whilst we do not want to deter people from calling 999 in serious cases such as heart attack, breathing difficulties or stroke, we do need people to think very carefully about their options and consider whether they really need an ambulance or there is another option available to them.

“Our level of calls to NHS 111 also increased dramatically and we would encourage people to also use this service responsibly for medical problems, where you can’t wait for your GP or don’t know what to do.”