Thousands are facing ambulance delays after a massive rise in 999 calls for seriously ill patients.
The number of emergency calls for ‘extremely life-threatening’ conditions went up by 15.2% in Lancashire in June.
An ambulance chief called the increase “unprecedented” and said the soaring temperatures and the World Cup were main causes.
Derek Cartwright, director of operations for North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, also said it meant ambulances were taking longer to respond to less serious call-outs.
“We’re seeing people with conditions such as respiratory and heart conditions which can exacerbated by the warm weather and in this period, we have also had the World Cup and four bank holidays which brings incidents involving alcohol.
“These patients need our help urgently, they have life-threatening conditions and it is these people we need to reach within eight minutes.
“While we understand that to everyone who rings 999, their problem is an urgent one, however, we have to prioritise our resources and, while we strive to reach everyone as quickly as possible, it is likely that those with less serious conditions may have to wait longer for an ambulance.”
When someone calls 999, they are asked a series of questions to find out the seriousness of their condition.
There are several different categories: Red 1 is extremely life-threatening, Red 2 is serious and potentially life-threatening and then Greens 1, 2,3 and 4 are less serious.
The number of Red 1 calls in the county also rose by 10.6% in May, after no change in April.
A spokesman said: “The Trust prioritises Red 1 and 2 calls but there is also substantial investment and attention being paid to more effectively dealing with the Green calls which range from a response time of between 20 minutes and four hours.
“Due to additional funding from Commissioners, NWAS is now able to pilot the development of a new Community Paramedic model in various hard to reach locations across the North West.
“In addition, the service is placing some of the senior paramedics and paramedics on rapid response vehicles on Green 999 incidents, the aim being to reduce unnecessary hospital attendances.
“These two initiatives will help support the Trust drive to help patients by providing safe care closer to home.
While the Trust can refer patients to other services such as 111, walk-in centres, GP or their local pharmacies, patients are advised to consider these services before calling 999 if their condition is not life-threatening.”