The North East Ambulance Service has asked the public to use emergency services wisely over the New Year weekend.
The service says it is expecting a busy weekend and warns that some patients may have to wait longer for an ambulance as it tries to meet demand.
NEAS has declared two critical incidents since 19 December due to "unprecedented pressure", which has affected its ability to reach emergency patients.
Chief operating officer at NEAS, Stephen Segasby, said: “This is always a busy time of year for us but unprecedented pressure across the health system has impacted on our ability to be able to reach those most in need and deliver the best care we can. Delays can bring harm to patients so it’s important that we take every measure we can to reduce them.
“Our amazing staff and volunteers continue to work extremely hard, and this unparalleled pressure is showing no sign of respite. As such, we're expecting a busy weekend and patients may experience longer waits for an ambulance.
"We would always advise someone who thinks their condition is life threatening to call us but please think before you pick up the phone - do you really need an ambulance or is there another way of you getting help?
NEAS has asked people across the region to take steps to reduce the pressure on the service.
Only call 999 or visit A&E if their condition is a medical emergency. These include: Chest pain, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, severe loss of blood, severe burns, choking, fitting, drowning and severe allergic reactions
Ensure medicine cabinets are well stocked with regular medication as well as essentials like a first aid kit, thermometer, paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamines and plasters.
Consider using 111 online first and consider if they are able to make their own way to hospital, if needed.
Patients who are waiting for an ambulance are asked to only call back if their condition gets worse, or to cancel it if is no longer needed.
Mr Segasby added: “If you’re out celebrating, please have a good time but look out for each other and don’t ruin your fun by ending up in the back of an ambulance."
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