A COMBINATION of sun, booze and the World Cup has led to a spike in the number of critical calls to Lancashire’s ambulance service in the last month.

In June, North West Ambulance Service said there was a 15 per cent increase in serious or life-threatening calls in the county, compared to the same period last year.

This was the biggest increase in the region, which saw an 11 per cent overall increase.

Derek Cartwright, director of operations, said this has led to some long delays for those suffering from less serious conditions.

He added: “These patients need our help urgently, they have life-threatening conditions and it is these people we need to reach within eight minutes. We’re seeing people with conditions such as respiratory and heart conditions which can exacerbated by the warm weather and in this period, we have also had the World Cup and four bank holidays which brings incidents involving alcohol.”

The rise in activity also meant the trust has failed to meet a key performance target since April, with just 73.5 per cent of patients in a life-threatening condition being reached by paramedics within eight minutes, against the target of 75 per cent.

Mr Cartwright said many people need to change their expectations when they dial 999 and highlighted the trust’s new ‘hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’ systems, where less serious calls can receive either telephone self care advice, or can be referred to other healthcare providers such as a GP or walk-in centre.

He added: “While we understand that to everyone who rings 999, their problem is an urgent one, however, we have to prioritise our resources and, while we strive to reach everyone as quickly as possible, it is likely that those with less serious conditions may have to wait longer for an ambulance.”