East Midlands Ambulance wait times are rising and bosses warn things could get even worse during this weekend's heatwave

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Plea to only dial 999 as “last resort” as data reveals 71-minutes average response time for stroke patients

NHS chiefs are warning people may have to wait longer for ambulances in Northamptonshire or even be told to make their own way to hospital this weekend.

East Midlands Ambulance Service says the public needs to “take responsibility for keeping themselves well during the hot weather” to keep crews free to attend the most seriously ill.

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Met Office experts issued an amber extreme heat alert covering Northamptonshire for 72 hours from Sunday, which means there could be a danger to life or serious illness from scorching temperatures.

EMAS chiefs are pleading with the public to only dial 999 for medical help as a "last resort"EMAS chiefs are pleading with the public to only dial 999 for medical help as a "last resort"
EMAS chiefs are pleading with the public to only dial 999 for medical help as a "last resort"

EMAS deputy director of operations David Williams said: “We need each and every person to take this heat warning seriously and to do everything they can to stay well to prevent additional pressure on the NHS.

Patients experiencing less serious illnesses or injuries may experience an extended wait for an ambulance.

"If you are asked by our 999 control room if you can make your own way to hospital, please do so – either via taxi or asking a friend or family member to drive you.

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“This allows us to continue to respond to patients who need our ambulances with highly-skilled clinicians and life-saving equipment on board to provide ongoing treatment on the way to hospital.”

EMAS’ plea comes after NHS data revealed NONE of the England’s ambulance services hit crucial response time targets in June.

It took East Midlands medics nearly ten minutes instead of seven to reach patients with life-threatening conditions.

The mean response time for category two incidents, such as strokes, was 71 minutes — way below the 18-minute target.

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For the least serious calls, people were left waiting an average of nearly four hours.

Nationally, it was also the busiest June ever with almost 900,000 calls to 999. Life-threatening category one call-outs also reached a record high, 79,436.

Mr Williams added: “We continue to experience immense pressure on our ambulance service and our staff are working phenomenally hard to the sickest and most severely injured patients.

“Calling 999 for medical help should be a last resort, after you have tried self-care, your local pharmacy, your GP, NHS111 Online and your local Urgent Treatment Centre.”

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How to keep cool in extreme heat

Public Health Northamptonshire has these tips for safe during three days of extreme heat forecast for the county:

■ Look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated

■ Stay hydrated, take water with you if you are out and about

■ Avoid travelling at peak times particularly with children, especially babies, or the elderly. Ensure you have enough water with you to cope with delays

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■ Stay out of the sun when UV rays are strongest between 11am and 3pm

■ If you need to go out, stay in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat

■ Close curtains in rooms facing the sun. Remember, it could be cooler outdoors than indoors

■ Never leave anyone in a parked closed vehicle – especially not animals, children or babies

■ Avoid alcohol, it dehydrates you

■ Watch out around open water, unexpected cold or strong currents can catch out even experienced swimmers. Better to swim safely at one of the county’s organised events.