AMBULANCE crews in Widnes and Runcorn are feeling the heat after being tested to the limit by sweltering summer weather which has sent emergency calls across Cheshire and Merseyside rocketing.
Mersey Regional Ambulance Service, which provides all emergency ambulance cover throughout Halton, claims recent weeks have sent 999 calls to a record-breaking high.
The service receives on average 500 999 calls relating to life-threatening or serious emergencies. But in the last two weeks, the average is more than 700 a day - a rate said to be 'unprecedented'.
From July 11-17, the service received more than 4,600 calls in just six days, compared to 4,169 calls for a typical six-day period in June. Many of the heat-related incidents have been of a serious nature, requiring complicated and often time consuming treatment by ambulance crews.
Emergencies related to breathing difficulties have been a prominent feature of recent days with 458 of this type of incident being attended over a four day period, by comparison with 390 during a typical six-day period in June. Other heatwave statistics include:
Seven incidents of temperature exposure (just one was reported in June).
401 calls for chest pains (350 over six days in June).
35 calls related to allergies (compared with 22 in June).
Janet Davies, chief executive of Mersey Regional Ambulance Service, said: 'The average figure for this time of year historically has been around 500 calls per day. The increase in volume is an issue that we are currently managing as best we can and our ambulance crews are working extremely hard to continue to provide a first rate service.'
Ray Lunt, emergency control room manager, said: 'The number of cases our crews are attending has been staggering since the heatwave started.
'On average we normally receive call levels that require our crews to attend about eight to 10 patients per shift but during the past six days this has risen to almost 12 incidents, most of which are taking longer to deal with.
'I would urge everyone to be sensible, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and try to take it easy if doing excessive exercise. While the hot weather is always welcome, people should remain sensible and remember that we are there for genuine emergencies.'