Britons were today urged to drink responsibly and avoid making any ‘unnecessary’ journeys tomorrow when thousands of ambulance staff strike across England and Wales.
Health leaders warn the NHS is already under extreme pressure and admit they can’t guarantee patient safety during the unprecedented 999 walk-outs.
On the eve of the biggest strike of its ilk since the 1980s, health minister Will Quince advised the public not to do anything ‘risky’, such as running on icy roads or taking part in contact sports.
Mr Quince also insisted it was ‘really important’ people don’t call for an ambulance unless their condition is ‘life-threatening’, urging Britons to otherwise use NHS 111.
Meanwhile, the NHS extraordinarily asked the public to ‘take sensible steps’ to avoid ending up in A&E and piling even more pressure on casualty units which are already struggling.
The advice to drink sensibly comes right in the middle of the Christmas party season when bars and restaurants are typically full of festive revellers.
The hospitality sector is already struggling to recover from the impact of Covid and train strikes.
Thousands of ambulance staff – including paramedics, control room workers and technicians – will take industrial action at nine of England’s ten ambulance trusts tomorrow in a row over pay.
Another strike is planned on December 28, meaning the advice will span past the Christmas weekend.
Concerns have been growing about the level of cover they will provide, with union members in some areas unlikely to treat heart attack and stroke patients or pensioners who have suffered falls.
Unions threatened to escalate the strikes after talks with Health Secretary Steve Barclay ended this lunchtime without a breakthrough.
A health source said terrified NHS managers expected tomorrow to descend into a ‘****show’.
Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said: ‘There is no doubt that the NHS is facing extreme pressure.
‘Industrial action will add to the already record demand we are seeing on urgent and emergency care, and so it is really important that the public play their part by using services wisely.
‘This means continuing to call 999 for life-threatening emergencies – if it is not life-threatening you may have to wait longer than usual for an ambulance.
‘And using 111 online for other health needs where you will receive clinical advice on the best next steps to take.’