THE Welsh Ambulance Service is warning that reckless or irresponsible use of 999 could have fatal consequences, as the number of calls continues to rise.
The service took 1,428 non-essential or hoax calls in the last 12 months* while urgent callers waited in line. It includes a man who dialled 999 because he had the hiccups and another who claimed he had drunk too much wine and was hungover. One person called 999 claiming they had heartburn after a chilli con carne, but it turned out to be a hoax call.
Paul Hughes, Medical Director at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Calls of this type put people's lives at risk as it may result in a delay to the emergency services answering genuine calls for help. During peak periods, like the summer, every hoax call has the potential to delay a response to a serious emergency.
“We ask the public to only dial 999 and attend emergency departments for life-threatening and serious illnesses and injuries - remember to keep emergency ambulances for your emergencies.”
Here are some of the calls which have clogged up the system since last August
A man who claimed he had drunk too much wine called 999 complaining of a terrible hangover
A child dialled 999 claiming someone had stolen their snowman
“I’ve eaten a hot chilli, my heart’s on fire.”
A woman asked a 999 operator what she should do with her baby, because her husband is in work
A man dialled 999 because he had the hiccups
A child who fell off his bike and cut his knee phoned 999
Dr Hughes added: “During June we took 33,871 emergency calls, up by 336 calls from the same period last year, with more than a third of these – 13,328 calls – being of the highest category, so of the most serious in nature.
“Due to the increase in calls that we experience year on year we are actually reaching more and more people across Wales than ever before.
“We are committed, through our Working Together for Success modernisation programme and our Clinical Strategy, to improve our service for the people of Wales and would continue to remind the public to ‘Choose Well’ and use the service sensibly.”
The Welsh Ambulance Service is asking the public to support the Choose Well campaign, and to use the right service which is right for their need.
This could be self care using over-the-counter medicine and plenty of rest, or a trip to your local pharmacist, who can give you advice on common illnesses and the medicines you need to treat them.
For advice and treatment of most illnesses, visit your GP, or call the NHS Direct Wales 24/7 on 0845 46 47 for confidential health advice and information.
Treatment for minor injuries, such as cuts, bites, stings and muscle and joint injuries, can be provided at your local Minor Injuries Unit, where there is no need for an appointment.
You should only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency, if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
*Figures are from July 1, 2012 until June 30, 2013