South Central Ambulance Service has declared a critical incident amid huge pressures on their services - with rising Covid infections and the heat partially blamed for the problems. 

They have warned there will be delays in responding to patients with "less urgent needs" because they are prioritising those in a life-threatening or serious condition.

SCAS urged people to look elswhere for treatment, by calling 111, local urgent care centres or by calling their GP or local pharmacist. 

They are also asking people not to call 999 back to ask about an estimated time unless the patient’s condition has changed so the line can be kept free for emergencies. 

The ambulance service explained: "The declaration of a critical incident enables us to seek further support from our partners and alert the wider healthcare system, as well as the public, to our existing challenges in reaching patients as quickly as we can.

"We are experiencing an increasing number of 999 calls into our service, combined with patients calling back if there is a delay in our response to them. As a result, our capacity to take calls is being severely challenged.

"This is combined with the challenges of handing patients over to busy hospitals across our region and a rise in Covid infections, as well as other respiratory illnesses, among both staff and in our communities.

"This week we are also faced with high temperatures across our region which we know will lead to an increase in demand on our service.

"All of these issues combined are impacting on our ability to respond to patients.

"We would like to thank everyone for your support during this difficult time and we will post further updates on both our social media channels and website."