The Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, has urged people to take extra care and only call 999 for life-threatening or serious emergencies during the ambulance strikes.
Ambulance services are expected to be severely impacted by industrial action, as the first of two separate days of planned strike action by some ambulance staff begins today.
The GMB union has announced its members in the ambulance services will go on strike on December 21 and 28.
The Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) expects the number of emergency ambulances able to attend patients will be significantly affected on strike days.
Non-emergency patient transport, which helps people attend hospital appointments, will also be affected, as will non-clinical call handlers in WAST’s contact centres and some support services.
WAST has warned only life-threatening illnesses or injuries are likely to receive an emergency response on strike days. Patients are advised not to call 999 unless someone is very seriously ill or injured, or there is an immediate risk to life.
The very sickest patients will continue to be prioritised, while less seriously ill or injured patients will not receive an ambulance response.
This might also mean patients being asked to make their own way to hospital, where their life is not in danger, provided they feel safe to do so.
People are advised to use the NHS 111 Wales website for health advice where there is no immediate threat to life, or speak to or visit a pharmacist, GP or minor injuries unit.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “There’s no doubt the two days of industrial action, following hard on the heels of action by nurses which have caused a delay in treatment for thousands of patients in Wales, are going to cause huge pressure on ambulance services.
“Ambulances will only be able to respond to the most urgent calls on strike days.
“Please don’t add extra pressure on services on these days and consider carefully what activities you take part in.
“It’s important to call 999 if you are in immediate danger, but we must all consider very carefully how we use ambulance services on these days.
“It’s vital that all of us, as users of our NHS, do all we can to minimise pressure on our health service during the industrial action.”
Everyone can help relieve the pressure by:
• Stocking up on prescription medications and over the counter remedies for common ailments to reduce the risk of you falling ill on strike days.
• Ensuring you have adequate first aid kit supplies in the event you need to administer self-care for minor injuries at home.
• Taking extra care during the cold weather to avoid slips, trips and falls, and accidents on the road.
• Looking out for family, friends and neighbours who are especially vulnerable.