South Central Ambulance Service has slashed its average call answer times for 111 calls from around 40 minutes last winter to just over two minutes in September.

SCAS, which serves Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, said it faces a “significant increase” in 111 and 999 calls during winter.

It urged the public to use its 111 service for “urgent, but not emergency needs”, firstly going to or calling 111.

The service said people should only call 999 if “you, or someone you’re with, is suffering a serious or life-threatening emergency”.

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Paul Jefferies, Assistant Director of Operations at SCAS, said: “This includes things like severe bleeding or burns, unconsciousness, someone not breathing or symptoms of stroke, heart attack or other life-threatening conditions.

“This will ensure that staff in our control rooms and out on the road can be available for patients who need our help immediately.”

SCAS said efforts by its recruitment and training teams helped it to take on more call handlers and clinicians, including GPs, working in its 111 service, allowing it to cut waiting times.