The ambulance service that operates in Surrey declared a critical incident today (November 17) after an overnight IT failure put huge strain on its services.

Ambulance services in the region offered their support to South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) throughout Wednesday, who urged people in need to seek alternatives to calling an ambulance during the crisis and only dial 999 when it was "absolutely essential".

SECAmb said by Wednesday evening that some IT services had begun to return though their services remained under serious strain.

Alerting people in the region about the incident and describing it briefly, a spokesperson for SECAmb posted to Twitter:

"Following a significant IT issue overnight, we have declared a Critical Incident this morning – 17 Nov 2021. Staff are working extremely hard as we continue to respond to patients. We would ask that you consider alternatives to 999, inc NHS 111 online, unless absolutely essential."

They added: "The Trust continues to urge the public to only call in the event of a serious emergency as we remain in a critical incident. In line with national contingency arrangements, we're grateful for the support we're receiving from other ambulance trusts and our system partners... As our staff continue to work on resolving the issues, we would like to thank the public for their continued support and patience at this time."

A number of stories emerged over the course of Wednesday morning and afternoon of other ambulance trusts and services stepping in to support their colleagues with SECAmb.

Among them were the Crownborough Community First Responders, a group of volunteers trained in first aid who urged people in need to call them before dialling 999 in the area.

"We currently have R2050 booked on and responding to C1 emergency 999 calls in #Crowborough and surrounding areas. @SECAmbulance has declared a Critical Incident due to an IT failure - please use 111 for non-urgent calls and 999 for serious medical emergencies only #HelpUsHelpYou," the group posted to Twitter.

In the moments just before 6pm on Wednesday, SECAmb said they had begun to resolve the unspecified IT issue that had led to the critical incident declaration.

An updated Twitter statement read: "Following the IT issues experienced earlier, we've been working hard throughout the day to resolve the situation. We're pleased that we are now starting to bring our systems back online but there is a need for further periods of testing in the coming hours... We would like to thank all our staff, the public and our partners for their ongoing support. Patients should continue to call us if they really need us but, as always, should make use of alternatives, like NHS 111 online, if it's urgent but not an emergency."