Inappropriate 999 calls are wasting time and money

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AMBULANCE staff today warned they are wasting time and money on people who unnecessarily dial 999.

Calls from people about lightbulbs that need changing, broken fingernails and wanting lifts home are among those logged by South Central Ambulance Service in the past year.

WARNING Hoax 999 calls cost thousands

WARNING Hoax 999 calls cost thousands

Between January and October the service recorded 1,235 hoax calls.

And the number of inappropriate calls, which aren’t recorded, is estimated to be in the hundreds.

On average it costs £257 every time an ambulance attends an incident, which means thousands of pounds is being wasted on non-emergency calls.

While people can be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act, it is most often used for people constantly ringing the emergency services.

There is no ambulance equivalent to wasting police time.

Graham Collins, 53, has worked as a paramedic for 28 years and is based at Portsmouth Ambulance Station in Eastern Road.

The team leader said: ‘There have been all sorts of inappropriate callouts. We often get people who have run out of credit on their mobile phones and want to call their GP.

‘So they call us so we can call their GP for them.

‘Recently we were called because someone had locked themselves out of their house.

‘One gentleman was having an argument with his wife and he wanted to take his ring off his finger to throw at her. But because it was stuck he called 999.

‘Another example is being called because someone had lost their TV remote control.’

Mr Collins said that sometimes callers will tell operators they need medical attention, knowing ambulance staff will attend.

‘My impression is people don’t have much self-reliance,’ added Mr Collins.

‘We don’t want to put people off calling us, but just use a bit of common sense.’

The service has today launched a film called 999 South Central, which encourages people to think before calling.

Examples of inappropriate calls

Examples of calls that ambulance staff from South Central Ambulance Service – which covers Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – have attended include:-

· A man in ‘severe pain’ called so paracetamol from a table less than six feet away could be passed to him.

· Drunk people who need a lift home because they have no money for a taxi.

· A woman who wanted a glass of water but was too cold to get out of bed.

· An incident of ‘uncontrolled bleeding’, which turned out to be a popped spot.

· A man called crews to get him cigarettes.

· An ill dog was described to the emergency operations centre as a woman’s son.

· Calls from people who have arrived home from the emergency department and want a second opinion from another doctor at the hospital.