PATIENTS have been warned that arriving at hospital in an ambulance does not get them seen any quicker.

The message from North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) crews warns people to think twice before calling 999 if they can get to hospital by other means.

Ambulance crews have now issued flyers to patients which contain health information advising them where and when to get help if they become unwell.

The flyers also encourage the over 65s, pregnant women, people with long term health conditions and children aged two and three years old to get a free flu vaccination.

The advice comes after an increase in reports by crews to ambulance bosses that people are openly admitting to using 999 as a taxi service.

This is because they think 'they will be seen quicker in A&E.'

A recent case saw a woman who had just been taken to hospital by ambulance call 999 to complain that she had been asked to sit with other people in the waiting room.

She asked for another ambulance to be sent out to her so she could be seen straight away.

Ged Blezard, director of operations at NWAS said: “No matter how you get to A&E, whether it’s by ambulance or not, you will be assessed and then seen in order of priority. Being asked to wait is actually a good thing; it’s when you’re rushed through that you’re having a really bad day and you’ve got a serious health concern.

“Across the five counties of the North West there are, on average, around 250 ambulances and 50 rapid response vehicles on duty at any one time. That’s not a lot when you consider that we’re helping 130 people each and every hour of the day.

“We need the public to help us by making sure they only call 999 when someone has a serious illness or injury and their life could be at risk.

“When it’s not an emergency, people can go to the NHS website, a pharmacy, GP or call NHS 111. And, if it’s safe to get to hospital by other means please do so that ambulances are free for those who need them most.”

In January 2018, North West Ambulance Service dealt with 96,141 patients and 61.75 per cent were taken to A&E by ambulance.