PEOPLE are using ambulances as a “taxi service” as they think they will be seen more quickly in A&E.

That’s according to crews with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) who have told bosses that residents openly admit to dialling 999 as a way of jumping the queue.

In one recent case, a woman who had just been taken to hospital by ambulance called 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.

Service chiefs are now reminding residents that arriving at hospital in an ambulance will not allow them to be seen sooner if their condition is not serious.

NHS services continue to experience serious pressures as the winter rolls on. Last month NWAS dealt with 96,141 patients and 62 per cent were taken to A&E by ambulance.

Ambulance crews are now issuing flyers to patients which contain health information such as where and when to get help when feeling 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.

Ged Blezard, director of operations at North West Ambulance Service, 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.”