"ONLY call 999 in a genuine, life threatening emergency to ensure we can continue delivering care for those who need us."

Those are the words of Will Warrender, chief executive of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT), who is urging people only to call 999 in an emergency as demand soars to levels normally seen on New Year’s Eve.

The trust has experienced a significant increase in activity in recent weeks, with its people managing 20,154 incidents during the past seven days (September 11 to 17).

It dealt with more than 2,900 incidents a day on Saturday and Sunday, the same level of calls it normally sees on New Year’s Eve.

Activity increased to a peak of 3,030 incidents on Monday, and is expected to remain very high this weekend.

Although the trust say there are many reasons for the surge in demand, the increase in calls comes at the same time as cases of coronavirus in the community continue to rise.

Now, Will Warrender, CEO of SWASFT CEO, is asking the public only to call 999 in a medical emergency when someone is seriously injured or ill, or their life is at risk.

He is advising people to contact NHS 111 by phone or online if they have a less-serious, but urgent medical problem and aren’t sure what to do.

“Our people are working incredibly hard to keep you all safe, as we deal with incredibly high activity levels across the region," Mr Warrender said.

“We have been responding to more than 200 additional incidents a day, which is putting substantial pressure on our resources.

“We are reviewing our resources to ensure we can continue responding to patients safely and effectively.

“We will always be there for the patients who need us, but we must ensure we can speak to and treat those with the most life-threatening injuries and illnesses first.

“Please help us to help you by only calling 999 in a genuine, life threatening emergency to ensure we can continue delivering care for those who need us.”

The trust said people should always call 999 if someone has stopped breathing, has severe chest pain, is choking, may be having a stroke, has serious blood loss, or is unconscious.

The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

If you have any of these symptoms, try to get a test as soon as possible and stay at home until you get the result.