Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Plea over unnecessary 999 calls

Snow scene
Heavy snow has fallen in many parts of the UK

An ambulance service has renewed its plea to be contacted only in emergencies, as heavy snow is forecast across the West Midlands region.

Chris Kowalik, of West Midlands Ambulance Service, said falls and traffic collisions because of snow and ice would increase pressure on crews.

He appealed for people to only dial 999 for life-threatening or potentially life-threatening reasons.

Only 10% of about 2,000 daily calls to the service come under this category.

The service has begun a poster campaign urging people to contact '999' only in emergencies and potentially life-threatening conditions such as choking, chest pain, serious blood loss or if somebody is unconscious.

Pavement falls

Mr Kowalik said other areas of the NHS such as walk-in centres, GP surgeries and pharmacists could deal with more minor injuries such as strains and sprains, minor cuts and colds.

He said during the cold spell in the few days before Christmas it had received many more calls from people who had slipped in the ice.

"We had in Staffordshire a 70% increase in falls," he said.

"Some of those falls are falls that we should go to - because they involve frail people, they involve the elderly."

But he said the service was called about slips on the pavement were people had merely suffered "hurt pride".

He added Sunday 20 December was one of the busiest days seen by the service, with more than 3,000 calls coming into its control rooms.

The Met Office said most areas in England and in Wales were at risk of snow on Tuesday with up to 30cm (12in) possible on high ground.

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