An ambulance service is urging people to plan ahead to keep themselves and others safe.

With just one final weekend before Christmas, South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb), is facing significant pressure on both its 999 and 111 services in and around the festive period.

Last year, between December 20 and 2 January, the service answered close to 35,000 calls. This is an average of 2,500 calls per day.

Secamb executive director of operations Emma Williams said: “We have experienced pressure on our services for many months now. The last week in particular has been particularly challenging.

“We know that this isn’t going to ease in the coming weeks with Christmas, New Year and further periods of colder weather all bringing additional pressure.

“Our ask of the public remains the same – please only call 999 in an emergency – and remember to make use of alternatives when it’s less serious."

She asks for the public to remember the impact of their actions, such as drinking copious amounts of alcohol, which may lead an ambulance being sent to an “avoidable emergency”.

The director urged the public to order any repeat prescriptions well ahead of the bank holiday weekends, and that medicine cabinets are well stocked to ease pressure on the health service.

Secamb have issued a range of winter tips to the public to help them stay healthy over Christmas:

  • Look out for any vulnerable family or friends – is there anything you can do to help them? Are there any hazards in their homes? Do their slippers need replacing?
  • Wear appropriate shoes when outside especially during icy weather. We typically see an increase in slips and trips during colder spells.
  • Keep active when you’re indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.
  • Keep your home at a reasonable temperature. 18C is ideal if you can.

It has also advised potential patients to only call 999 in the event of a life threatening or serious emergency. This includes (but is not limited to)

  • Heart attacks
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Unconsciousness
  • Traumatic back/neck pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath

South East Coast Ambulance Service covers an area of 3,600 square miles, helping more than 4.9 million people receive the medical care they need.