PEOPLE across Somerset and the South West ringing 999 for an ambulance are being warned they could have a longer than usual wait.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has declared "a critical incident" after being inundated with calls since the start of the bank holiday weekend.

Bosses are pleading with people to only call 999 in a real emergency.

In a social media post, SWASFT says: "We have declared a critical incident due to extreme pressures on our service.

"As a result, some patients may wait longer for an ambulance while others could be advised to access alternative services if their call is not life-threatening.

"We need you to only call 999 in a genuine, life-threatening emergency so we can help those most in need."

The service has dealt with almost 300 additional emergency calls a day since the easing of lockdown restrictions began.

Just last week it responded to an average of 2,913 incidents a day - or around two every minute.

That compares to 2,816 call outs a day between April 12 and May 16 and 2,627 a day before the relaxation of the rules took effect.

The anbulance service has declared a critical incident

The anbulance service has declared a 'critical incident'

That has soared again over this weekend and is set to continue with the bank holiday tomorrow and half term attracting thousands of visitors to the region.

Lead paramedic Ed Hill said: “We have attended an increased number of emergency incidents recently, and some of them have involved patients who could have sought alternative help.

“During this bank holiday weekend and school half term week, we are expecting our service to be stretched by another rise in patient numbers.

“To help us to help you and your loved ones, please ensure you make the right call. Think 111 before dialling 999, and save emergency ambulances for those who need us most.

“Also if you decide to make your own way to hospital after calling 999, please remember to call us back to ensure your ambulance is available to someone else.”

People should call 999 for an ambulance in a medical emergency. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. For example: if someone has stopped breathing, is unconscious or has serious bleeding.

People with non-life threatening but urgent medical problems should contact NHS 111. For example, broken or fractured bones, sprains, or burns.

Inappropriate use of the 999 service puts unnecessary additional pressure on limited ambulance resources, and can delay emergency care to those most in need.