SPECIAL plans have been put in place tonight by the ambulance service ahead of an expected skyrocketing of calls relating to the England World Cup semi final match.

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) is gearing up for an unusually busy Wednesday night as England prepare to take on Croatia.

Additional staff and vehicles will be on duty from 9pm, a 'silver command cell' will be in place from earlier in the evening and senior managers will be in SCAS’ two emergency control rooms to help co-ordinate resources.

However, bosses have warned that some patients may experience delays in being responded to.

SCAS assistant director of operations, Paul Jefferies, said: “Due to the heatwave and England’s quarter-final game on Saturday we saw a 32 per cent increase in emergency 999 calls between noon on July 7 and 6am on Sunday, 8 July. Fortunately, the vast majority of fans celebrated in the right way in our region and we didn’t see any damage to ambulance vehicles or property that colleagues elsewhere in the country had to deal with.

“However, it was still exceptionally busy and therefore these additional plans have been put in place so we are prepared for a similar expected increase. It is important that people understand that we will always prioritise our staff and resources to the most seriously ill or injured patients. People with less serious emergencies – our Category 3 or Category 4 patients who we would normally get to within two or three hours respectively – may experience some delays over and above these usual response times as a result.

“I hope people across our region enjoy the game, celebrate or commiserate with the same spirit and style Gareth Southgate has demonstrated so admirably so that we can make ensure everyone tonight – not just football – is coming home safely.”

SCAS is urging members of the public to help those staff working this evening and overnight by:

• Only calling 999 if you or someone you are with is suffering a life-threatening or serious emergency.

• For everything else, call 111.

• Understanding that some patients may experience delays, not calling 999 constantly for ETA updates from control room staff and letting SCAS know as soon as possible if the ambulance is no longer required.

• Patients making their own way to local minor injuries units, first aid units or walk-in treatment centres, many of which are open till late this evening.