TELLING injured pensioner Geoffrey Sharp that ambulances were for real emergencies after he fractured his spine is unacceptable and unforgivable.

But it must be said that this is an extreme example and the vast number of our paramedics are caring and compassionate professionals.

This unfortunate incident also gives us a worrying insight into the outlook of sections of our health service.

For a considerable period now our hospitals and ambulance service have, quite rightly, been trying to “educate” people not to use emergency services as the first port of call for every mishap and illness.

They are suffering huge pressures and, make the valid point that there are other areas of the health service to deal with minor injuries and ‘everyday’ sickness.

But, while putting out that message, these services need to guard against a view becoming entrenched amongst some staff that the bulk of callers are timewasters.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the paramedic who so charmlessly pointed to the emergency sign on the side of the ambulance while chiding Mr Sharp is one of them.

South Central Ambulance Service’s apology for “perceived” rudeness also hardly reflects well on the organisation.

But ultimately there is a shared responsibility here.

The hospitals and ambulance service must educate people about when it is appropriate to call on emergency services, whilst their staff must also keep an open mind when it comes to treating the public.

But we must also do our bit by not overloading our health service with minor problems.

It’s conceivable failure by all three could lead to a situation where someone in need of critical care loses their life.