Emergency measures used as 999 calls hit record levels

ambulance chiefs in Yorkshire have been forced to use emergency measures to deal with “unprecedented” demand for 999 services.

Extra staff were drafted in as snow and ice combined with the Christmas holidays led to a 30 per cent increase in calls for help for the most seriously ill and injured at the weekend.

Demand for the NHS 111 hotline for urgent problems soared by 56 per cent compared to the same period in 2013, with nearly 20,000 calls received at the weekend.

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Similar pressures are being felt by other ambulance services. Managers in the south west of England say they have come close to declaring a major incident.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service’s director of operations, David Macklin, warned demand was unlikely to ease over New Year.

He added: “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. 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.”