AS another ambulance strike begins today, the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) has put out an urgent appeal.

SWASFT is urging the public to use 999 appropriately during today’s industrial action and to only call if it is a life-threatening or life-altering emergency.

A spokesperson said: ‘People should continue to call 999 if there is a medical or mental health emergency (when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk). Ambulances will be able to respond in these situations, but this may only be where there is the most immediate risk to life.

‘Where the situation is not life-threatening, people should seek alternative support through NHS 111 online or through calling NHS 111, and where possible, it is advised that members of the public arrange alternative transport if they need to visit a healthcare facility.

‘We are asking you to support us by only calling 999 for life-threatening emergencies, and so far your continued support has meant we have been able to prioritise those patients most in need of our help.

‘W are again asking for your support, because we absolutely must have crews available for the most life-threatening conditions, and we will be prioritising these patients first.

‘This means there will be other patients waiting for an ambulance, and we will get to them as soon as we can. We are sorry that we may be unable to respond to them as quickly as we would like.

‘If you are waiting for an ambulance, please do not call back asking for an estimated time of arrival. We cannot provide this information and it blocks our lines for other callers.

‘You should also be aware that less serious, non-life-threatening incidents may not receive a response for the duration of any strike.

‘Please be reassured that we are doing all we can to manage winter pressures and the upcoming industrial action, including receiving military support during industrial action days, which will allow our ambulance clinicians to crew more ambulances and reach patients more quickly.”

Which service should I access?

• Self-care – visit online for self-care advice for things like grazed knees, coughs and colds

• Pharmacy – visit your local pharmacy for headaches, upset stomachs, aches and pains

• NHS 111 – visit online or call 111 for advice and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week

• GP – call your GP for symptoms that won’t go away

• Minor injuries unit – attend your local minor injuries unit for urgent not life threatening conditions and injuries such as sprains, fractures and burns

• 999 – call 999 for life-threatening emergencies such as cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness, fits that aren’t stopping, chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, severe allergic reactions, suspected stroke and serious head injuries.