Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has urged people to consider alternatives before calling for an ambulance, especially during the busy winter period.
NIAS said that during 2017/18, delayed turnaround times at hospitals reduced emergency ambulance cover by 72,000 hours.
In a statement the service said its focus over the winter period will be to respond to life-threatening calls as quickly as possible.
“We will do all we can to deliver the highest quality of care in the most timely manner possible,” a spokesman said.
“However, the public also have a role to play by ensuring that they contact us only when it is necessary to do so.
“We would ask the public to consider alternatives such as self-care, GP or pharmacy attendance or self-referral to ED (emergency departments) to enable us to keep ambulances free for real emergencies.”
A plea has also been made for respect for ambulance staff.
The BBC reported earlier this month that there had been 2,278 reported incidents of abuse of staff in Northern Ireland since 2012/13.
Verbal abuse or “disruption” accounted for most incidents, at 1,231, followed by physical abuse, assault or violence in 890 cases.
There were 483 incidents in 2017/18.
“We would also appeal that, at all times but particularly over the holiday period, our staff be afforded the respect they deserve and be able to attend incidents to which they have been called to deliver ambulance care, without fear of assault, either verbal or physical,” an NIAS spokesman said.
“The men and women who work for NIAS will be leaving their families over the Christmas period to serve their community and will do so with respect and dignity.
“We ask that they be afforded the same courtesies.”