A critical incident has been declared as the region’s ambulance service struggles to cope with increased demand.

There are significant delays with more than 200 patients waiting for an ambulance at the North East Ambulance Service due to ‘unprecedented pressures’ caused by staff availability and delays at the region’s hospitals.

People have been urged only to call the emergency service in a life-threatening situation.

Scheduled strike action on Wednesday means striking workers will only be exempt to respond to category one calls and category two in a public place. 

Category two calls include heart attacks, major burns and strokes. 

Declaring a critical incident allows NEAS to instigate several additional measures to protect patient safety including:

  • Seeking mutual aid
  • Cancelling all training to allow for the redeployment of all clinical staff
  • No longer taking bookings for urgent, non-emergency transportation
  • Increasing third party provider provision

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Stephen Segasby, chief operating officer at North East Ambulance Service, said: “Our service is under unprecedented pressure. “Declaring a critical incident means we can focus our resources on those patients most in need and communicates the pressures we are under to our health system partners who can provide support.

“We are asking the public to call us only in a life-threatening emergency. For all other patients, we are urging them to use www.111.nhs.uk, speak to their GP or pharmacist.

“Our staff and volunteers continue to work extremely hard to respond to calls and incidents. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work and commitment at this challenging time.”