AMBULANCE staff are urging people to ‘Choose Well’ when dialling 999 in the wake of increased call-out times.

The Lancashire Telegraph revealed on Monday ambulances were taking more than 20 per cent longer to arrive at emergencies than two years ago.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed patients were facing a potentially critical extra wait.

The North West Ambulance Service admitted its performance had “decreased” since 2007 but blamed this on more calls, traffic and weather conditions.

Now it has called for the public to consider alternatives to the 999 number, such as phoning NHS Direct, going to minor injury units or their GP’s surgery, in response to a rising number of frivolous requests.

The trust said it receives more than 3,000 emergency calls per day and estimates that up to 15 per cent (450) are for ailments which would be treated more effectively elsewhere.

People have dialled 999 because of a split condom, a nose bleed, a finger trapped in a door, a sore throat and toothache, where trips to a family planning clinic, walk-in centre, GP, pharmacy or dentist would have been more appropriate.

Derek Cartwright, its director of emergency services, said: “This isn’t just about reducing the number of calls but also about improving patient care and ensuring the public get the right care at the right place.

“There is little paramedics can do for someone who has had a stiff knee, other than take them to accident and emergency.

“And like ourselves A&E departments, should also be kept free for urgent conditions which need immediate attention.”

The new Choose Well logo, which will be used on all of the trust’s vehicles, was launched at Burnley ambulance station in Trafalgar Street today.

Emergency vehicles will now carry the message: ‘Please keep this ambulance free for emergencies’.