North West Ambulance Service declares major incident due to high level of 999 calls

North West Ambulance Service has ended a major incident it declared due to a high level of calls.

The service, which covers one of the regions of England worst-hit by coronavirus, spanning Greater Manchester, was hit by a surge of 999 calls.

However a spokeperson said there was no evidence at this stage the spike in calls was related to Covid-19.

It has since stood down the major incident, after ‘”starting to see a reduction in calls,” adding it would “continue to closely monitor the situation throughout the night'”.

In an official statement earlier, it said Mondays were traditionally busy for the ambulance service, but it was unclear what was causing today’s surge.

The ambulance service said it was “exceptionally busy” on Monday evening and warned patients to expect delays.

“We’ve declared a major incident due to the high level of calls,” a statement said.

“If your call is not life-threatening, you may be asked to seek an alternative source of care or make your way to hospital.”

“We are trying our best to reach patients as soon as we possibly can,” North West Ambulance Service said.

The service called on people not to call for an ambulance unless their condition was life-threatening.

The ambulance service also asked people not to call back asking how long paramedics would be.

According to the Manchester Evening News, staff agreed to cancel all breaks for two hours due to the busy night.

The service was believed to have been been impacted by paramedics who are isolating due to coronavirus.

The ambulance union also urged people not to flood the service with calls.

NWAS Union tweeted: “Please help our crews by only calling if you really need us.

“They are being run ragged at the moment and they will get to you as soon as they can. Please consider using 111 First. Thank you.”

NWAS Unison branch secretary Jeff Gorman said crews had never dealt with a situation like this before.

“We are obviously entering into winter pressures which is always a really busy time of year,” he said.

“Things are much worse at the moment because of Covid and the impact it has had on resources.

“A lot of our members are off isolating which naturally results in less ambulances on the road.”

He said NWAS had been open with Unison about the pressures the service was facing.

Mr Gorman added: “To be fair to the management team, they have been completely open with and have been looking at ways to maximise the number of ambulances out there.

“It’s very extreme. I have been here for 30 years and I have never known anything like this. “They don’t declare a major incident easily. Normally we would just crack on and cope.”

The ambulance service’s official statement earlier tonight asked patients to “bear with us”.

It later said that the number of calls had dropped since it declared the major incident, thanking the public for heeding its plea.

It said: “If your call is not life-threatening, you may be asked if you can seek an alternative source of care or make your way to hospital by alternate means.

“You can help us reach the patients that urgently need our help by not calling 999 unless the condition is life-threatening or potentially life-threatening, not calling us to find out where your ambulance is or calling to cancel any ambulance that you no longer require or feel is necessary.

“We are trying our best to reach patients as soon as we possibly can and apologise for any delays in our response. Please bear with us.