NHS staff are urging people not to dial 999 or go to A&E over Christmas unless they have a genuine emergency or life-threatening condition.

Last weekend, the North East Ambulance Service received more than 700 more 999 calls than usual and more than 2,200 calls to 111.

Between Friday and Sunday, ambulances were sent to 2,281 patients, of which 623 were treated at the scene and did not need to go to A&E.

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Last New Year’s Eve, the service took 1,376 calls between 6pm and 6am and attended 636 incidents, of which 159 were alcohol-related.

Douglas McDougall, strategic head of operations at North East Ambulance Service, said: “The Christmas and New Year period is one of the busiest times of the year, not just for us but for the whole of the NHS. You can help us by only dialling 999 for medical emergencies.

“We want everyone to have a good time, but please don’t ruin your fun this Christmas and New Year by ending up in A&E.

“Please think before you pick up the phone, do you really need an ambulance or is there another way of you getting help?

He added: “We would particularly like to remind people that we are not a taxi service.

“We receive a lot of calls at this time of year from people who want a lift home.

“That call could stop someone who genuinely requires an ambulance from being able to get through to us.”