Hoax calls cost time and money

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NONSENSE 999 calls put lives at risk and cost the city’s ambulance service thousands of pounds last year.

Among the jobs South Central Ambulance Service attended in Milton Keynes in 2011 was a call out for a man suffering a heart attack – who turned out to be undoing a stopcock.

It was one of 1,235 hoax calls and many more inappropriate calls received by the service between January 1 and October 31 last year.

The average cost of attending an incident is £257.

As well as having to deal with inappropriate calls, ambulance staff suffered a total of 73 attacks across the region, which covers Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.

Emergency Services Manager Mark Begley – whose previous role was operations manager in Milton Keynes – said nonsense call outs happen far too often.

He said: “We have a finite number of ambulances, and paperwork has to be filled out and a full assessment done. When we are called out on a hoax 999 call we are tied up at a job we don’t need to be at. While we are there someone else might have a delay in getting to them.”

Mr Begley sited one incident in which a man phoned up to say he had seen someone on all fours suffering a heart attack.

“When we got there the man was on all fours because he was turning a stopcock on. We were told it’s a heart attack – when you get told that you have to err on the side of caution.

“We arrived with blue lights and sirens blaring, grabbed our stuff and ran towards him. He said ‘I’m just trying to undo a stopcock.’

“He must have been thinking, ‘what a waste of money.’ You personally feel a bit stupid.

“Someone else called about a laceration to a hand that turned out to be a young child who had cut the top of her finger and mum didn’t have a plaster.

“We asked why she hadn’t asked her neighbour and she said she didn’t get on with them. The one thing we don’t carry is a plaster.

“The cut finger didn’t even draw blood. It was red and sore.”

Other nonsense calls across the region last year include a man in ‘severe pain’ who wanted a paramedic to pass him some paracetamol from a table, someone who needed help finding a TV remote control and people who didn’t know how to change a light bulb.

To see a video from South Central Ambulance Service, asking people to think before they dial click here