THE North West Ambulance Service has issued a warning to locals to be prepared for icy conditions.

Following the Met Office forecast for snow and ice this week, paramedics are now urging locals to stay vigilant.

A spokesman for the service said: "When temperatures fall, we always see a marked rise in the number of seriously ill patients; especially with respiratory problems and the number of people who have heart attacks and strokes.

"If you have a pre-existing medical condition ensure that you have sufficient medications.

"When you're outside, wear warm clothing, heavy coats, gloves and scarves.

"We ask people to look out for elderly neighbours, friends and relatives, and to help them out where they can.

"We traditionally see an increase in slips and trips due to icy conditions, which puts additional pressure on the service."

They urged motorists to plan journeys and check their vehicle is running well before setting off.

Locals with minor ailments should also make the most of GPs, pharmacists and NHS walk-in centres before ringing for an ambulance.

Derek Cartwright, North West Ambulance Service acting director of operations, said: "Ambulance Services are not there simply to transport people to a healthcare centre or hospital - our excellent staff are specially trained in dealing with trauma and life-threatening cases and this is where their expertise should be focused on.

"Heart attacks, strokes and other urgent incidents cannot wait, we need to get to these people as quickly as possible without having to divert from patients who have coughs and colds and other minor ailments that can be easily treated elsewhere."