THE Welsh Ambulance Service has issued a fresh plea for the public to use 999 responsibly over the Christmas period.

While the Christmas and New Year period is generally one of the busiest, new figures have revealed that last Christmas Day was actually the quietest day in December, suggesting that people behave differently on December 25 to other days of the year.

The service took 1,374 calls via 999 last Christmas Day; almost 500 calls fewer than on its busiest day, December 1, when it had 1,847 calls.

Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said the figures show "people who would normally be tempted to call us inappropriately are busy opening presents and eating lunch which means suddenly their ‘emergency’ can wait".

“By Boxing Day, the calls have gone up. Sometimes this is because people are genuinely unwell, but often it’s a result of overindulgence the previous day," he said.

“People who are genuinely ill don’t choose when they are unwell and, of course, we are there for those patients 24/7, 365 days of the year. However, those people who use ambulance services as a substitute for a GP appointment or because they have a long-standing minor illness or injury seem to make different choices on Christmas Day.

“It is these people we are asking to be sensible and to make those same choices every other day of the year."

Most GP surgeries will close on Bank Holidays – including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – so the Trust is urging people to take steps now to ensure they are prepared.

Lee Brooks, director of operations for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Calls to our ambulance service are triaged in order of priority, so if you’re not seriously ill or injured, you will wait longer for our help. You also won’t be seen any quicker in emergency departments if you arrive by ambulance as all patients are seen in order of clinical priority, not according to how or when they arrived in the department.

“Before you dial 999, think about where else you might be able to access the help you need, quicker."

Mr Brooks advised the public to visit the NHS website to take an online symptom check which includes cold and flu, dental and stomach pain.

“Don’t forget about your pharmacist, optician and your local minor injuries unit, where there is no need for an appointment," he added.