In a statement, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “Since Christmas Day and Boxing Day we have seen around 3,000 calls per day.
“Today has been incredibly busy, up almost 15% on last year, and demand is expected to rise as we head into the New Year celebrations.
“Despite having as many extra staff on duty as possible and every available vehicle on the road, meeting this severe level of demand remains a significant challenge.
“Since we must prioritise our available resources to respond to the most critically ill patients, this means that some less poorly patients may experience considerable waits for a response during this very busy period.
“We would like to apologise for this – please be assured that we are doing our best to reach everyone as soon as we can.
“999 should only be called for conditions including cardiac arrest, choking, severe chest pain, suspected stroke, serious blood loss and unconsciousness.
“This will help us reach those in serious need as soon as possible.
“This New Year we are urging people to think before they dial 999. Please look after yourselves and others to avoid conditions escalating to an emergency. Please help us to help you.
“The whole NHS system is under extreme pressure, so please call the correct service for your needs and please only call if you really need to.”
There were fears that bad weather might make the situation worse.
A yellow weather warning issued by the Met Office for the whole of South West England ran from 6pm yesterday until 9am today.
Storm Eleanor is expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds, with gales in places and gusts of up to 80mph.
“With the ground very wet this is likely to lead to rising water levels and some flooding in places,” warned a Met Office forecaster.
“This is most likely on Sunday morning with some very heavy rain possible for a time.
“Around 15-25mm of rain is likely with some spots seeing 30-40mm – much of this falling in three hours or so on Sunday morning.”
However, it is expected the bad weather will have cleared by the time the clock strikes midnight tonight.