AN AMBULANCE service has been put on its highest level of alert as temperatures continue to soar across Sussex.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) handled more than 18,500 999 calls last week and said it expects to see demand increase as the mercury continues to rise.

The service has moved to Level 4 of its Resource Escalation Action Plan, its highest level of alert, as temperatures in parts of the South East of England could reach 40C towards the end of this week.

Secamb is urging the public to take sensible actions to keep themselves and others safe as the heatwave continues, including using alternatives to calling 999 to seek urgent advice which isn’t an emergency and not to call 999 back unless a patient’s condition worsens or they no longer need assistance.

The ambulance service said that hotter weather typically results in an increase in calls relating to dehydration and heat stroke and can also seriously affect people with long-term health issues including heart conditions and high blood pressure.

Emma Williams, executive director of operations at Secamb, said: “We have had a very busy week and we expect demand to remain high, especially with the hotter weather forecast to last.

“I’d ask the public to really think as to whether they are facing an emergency and if not, avoid calling 999. Please also look to speak to your GP or a pharmacist and remember, you can also get help and advice from visiting NHS 111 online.

“We’d also urge people to do everything they can to keep cool and look out for vulnerable people including older people and the very young who can be seriously affected by the heat. People should stay hydrated, cover up, use sunscreen and make use of the shade.

“I want to thank all our staff and volunteers who are working hard at this busy time in challenging conditions to respond to everyone who needs our help as quickly as possible.”

Secamb urged people to stay in the shade at the hottest time of the day between 11am and 3pm, use sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids and to keep homes cool by only opening windows when the temperature inside rises and at night for ventilation.

Temperatures in Brighton are set to rise to 31C on Monday, with a Met Office weather warning extreme heat in place towards the end of this week and the start of next.