At least three ambulance services have declared critical incidents ahead of strikes this week, saying the sickest and most severely injured patients would be prioritised as they faced extraordinary demand.
North East Ambulance Service, South East Coast Ambulance Service and East of England Ambulance Service moved to the status as staff work to respond to calls.
The services said they took the decision because of pressures, including 999 call volumes and hospital handover delays, and that declaring the status allowed them to instigate additional measures to protect patient safety.
The London Ambulance Service (LAS) also declared a “business continuity incident” on Monday evening, warning that its 999 and 111 services were “extremely busy” and urging people to only call 999 for serious medical emergencies.
The service wrote on Twitter that it was “prioritising our sickest and most severely injured patients”.
The South East Coast Ambulance Service said the decision was made “following a period of more than a week of sustained pressure across both our 999 and 111 services, which has significantly impacted on our ability to respond to patients”.
Meanwhile, the North East Ambulance Service said it declared a critical incident as a result of “significant delays for more than 200 patients waiting for an ambulance, together with a reduction in ambulance crew availability to respond because of delays in handing over patients at the region’s hospitals”.