AMBULANCE bosses are asking people not to call 999 over the busy bank holiday weekend except in an emergency.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) is already dealing with consistently high numbers of calls and is expecting a surge in demand over the next three days.

Thousands of people are expected to hit the Sussex coast as people enjoy the last public holiday of the year before Christmas.

The rise in visitors across the county puts extra pressure on ambulance and hospital services.

Secamb is currently receiving an average of almost 150 more calls a day compared with this time last year.

Its emergency call centres have received 565,609 calls since January, a significant rise on the 530,985 received over the same period in 2013.

Non-emergencies can be dealt with by the NHS 111 service, which Secamb runs with out-of-hours GP provider Harmoni.

It provides a wide range of health advice and can send an ambulance to anyone suffering from more a serious problem.

Health advice is also available from pharmacies and walk-in centres such as the one next to Brighton Station, which is open seven days a week.

Secamb paramedic and senior operations manager James Pavey said: “Summer is always a busy time for us but this year it is proving particularly busy.

“In a real emergency we do not want people to hesitate in dialling 999 but where someone is not in a serious or life-threatening condition we would expect the caller to consider the other options available to them.

“We can help everyone who dials 999 and serious and life-threatening calls will always be assigned an immediate ambulance response. But people should be aware that not all the calls we receive will result in us sending an ambulance crew to the scene.

“We can provide clinical advice over the phone – in fact more than 10% of our calls are handled this way – advise someone to make their own way to A&E or perhaps direct a caller to a more appropriate service.”

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