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The ambulance timewasters putting lives at risk

THE Welsh Ambulance Service is reminding people not to call 999 unless it is a genuine emergency.

The service took 19,151 non-urgent calls in the last seven months (see Notes to Editors), just 318 of which required an ambulance.

None of those 318 callouts resulted in a patient being taken to hospital.

They include a woman who called 999 because her athlete’s foot infection had worsened, and a man who wanted dental work for two broken teeth.

Here are some examples of those calls:

‘Athletes foot infection – worsened,’ August 2014, Conwy
‘Two cotton buds stuck in ear,’ November 2014, Cardiff
‘Dancing too much – sprained ankle,’ September 2014, Llandudno
‘Wants antibiotics for pain in throat,’ September 2014, Porth
‘Genital warts,’ September 2014, Penrhyndeudraeth
‘Wants leg re-dressed, staying with friends without a district nurse,’ October 2014, Newport
‘Got two broken teeth – wants dental work,’ December 2014, Dolgellau
‘Tried to eat a scotch bonnet chilli pepper, face burning,’ October 2014, Pontypool
‘Male feeling knackered,’ September 2014, Abergele
‘Hasn't had any food since yesterday and feeling sick,’ December 2014, Pentre (Rhondda Cynon Taf)
‘Female pulled her side reaching for her charger,’ September 2014, Rhyl
‘Has trouble to walk, blisters on feet,’ August 2014, Cardiff
‘Punched a punch machine,’ November 2014, Wrexham
‘Had tooth out and now in pain,’ November 2014, Pontypridd
‘Diabetic, bad toe for 8 weeks and someone has stepped on it,’ September 2014, Cardiff

Richard Lee, the Trust’s Head of Clinical Services, said: “Many of the patients we attend to as a result of a 999 call receive treatment from the ambulance service but do not end up travelling in an ambulance. They could be treated at home, referred to alternative care or might even decline treatment.

“The Trust is taking steps to ensure that patients only travel to hospital when absolutely necessary and are referred on to the right part of NHS Wales where this is safe and clinically appropriate.

“While the majority of calls we receive via 999 are entirely appropriate, we also take some non-essential calls from people with colds, toothache, back ache and other minor conditions.

“Calls of this type put people's lives at risk as the ambulance attending that patient is not available for a serious road accident, heart attack or stroke.

“Once again, we urge the public to ‘Choose Well’ to ensure busy emergency services are available for those who need them most urgently.

“For advice and treatment of most illnesses, visit your GP, or call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 for confidential health advice and information. NHS Direct Wales is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

“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.

“Please remember to only dial 999 in a life-threatening emergency, if someone is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk.”