A SURGE in 999 calls for people with life-threatening illnesses has seen a big increase in the demand for paramedics compared to last year.

The North West Ambulance Service has seen a rise of 10 per cent in emergency calls across Cheshire and Merseyside, in the beginning of December.

Manchester recorded the greatest increase of 16.6 per cent.

Most patients have been suffering from respiratory related conditons, affecting the under 16s and over 65s.

Acting director of operations, Derek Cartwright, said: “This time of year is traditionally our busiest time.

“We have the annual party season to contend with, but adding to this are the calls for help from genuinely ill people which has dramatically increased.

“These kinds of incidents will obviously take priority as they are a serious threat to life. People should not be afraid to ring us if they need emergency assistance.

“But calls which are not urgent, may find themselves waiting a little longer for an emergency response or, once triaged by our system, could be passed onto NHS Direct.”

The most serious and life-threatening calls require a response in eight minutes.

Paramedics are urging patients on long term medication to renew their prescriptions.

People with minor conditions are advised to consult their local pharmacy, GP or walk in centre.

Everyone is reminded to stock up medicine cabinets for the winter months with items such as paracetamol, sore throat remedies and basic first aid items.