DEMAND remained high for North West Ambulance Service over the Christmas and new year period – despite strict coronavirus restrictions being in place.

The week is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for the service, and this year was no different, albeit slightly less than the previous year.

On New Year’s Day alone, the service received nearly 5,000 999 calls, which was around 350 calls fewer (6.5 per cent) than last year.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve levels were only slightly reduced on the previous year.

“As always, we were well prepared for the spike in calls over the whole festive period with months of planning and additional resources available,” said director of operations Ged Blezard.

“The reduction in New Year’s Day calls was undoubtedly down to the restrictions placed over the region, which prevented the usual alcohol related incidents in town and city centres.

“However, the number of 999 calls we received on New Year’s Day still represents a high level of demand and coronavirus itself continues to add its own complications.

“Despite this, we continued to provide a safe 999 emergency service and 111 and patient transport services thanks to the skill and effort of all NWAS staff that worked over the festive period.

“Alongside our dedicated workforce, we are also very grateful for the support from our community first responders and other volunteers at this time.”

Ged also wished to thank members of the public for their support during the busy period and for using the service appropriately.

He added: “We must prioritise life-threatening emergencies, which can mean that patients in a less serious condition do experience a wait.

“We have been able to reduce wait times as much as possible by providing medical advice over the phone and treating patients in the community wherever possible, reducing unnecessary emergency department admissions.

“As we head into January and February and the cold winter continues, we are expecting the high demand to continue and ask for the public to continue to help us by only calling 999 in life-threatening emergencies.”

People can take advice from a pharmacist for common health worries, book an appointment with their GP for health issues which will not go away, visit an urgent treatment centre for minor illnesses and injuries or use NHS 111 online for health advice.

Before attending an emergency department in person, please call 111 first, as they will ensure patients are appropriately directed to the right care, and if a visit to hospital is required, they will make an appointment slot for them.