Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

999 time-waster called for ambulance to pick up her prescription

Almost 5,000 non-emergency calls involved hoaxes
Almost 5,000 non-emergency calls involved hoaxes

Shocking new examples of misuse of the emergency 999 number include a woman phoning for an ambulance to collect her prescription.

The ridiculous calls for emergency help were revealed as the health minister launched a campaign to ensure the service is used appropriately.

In the past 12 months the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) received 29,284 hoax or inappropriate emergency calls.

One woman called for an ambulance to pick up her prescription from her GP, while another attended A&E because her false nails were painful.

Almost 5,000 of these non-emergency calls involved hoaxes while 2,261 callers phoned seeking information.

In 1,134 of the calls, the patient had recovered by the time the ambulance arrived and in 17,861 instances patients refused to travel to hospital.

Health Minister Edwin Poots yesterday got behind the Choose Well campaign aimed at combating this practice that takes paramedics' time and attention away from genuine emergency calls.

He said: "The Choose Well campaign aims to help people gain a better understanding of the choices available and allow them to get access to the right services quickly, whether it is checking online, a trip to the pharmacy, or an appointment with the GP."

An NIAS spokesman endorsed the campaign. He added: "The message from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service is a simple one and it is to keep ambulances for real emergencies.

"If we are tied up responding to calls which did not actually require emergency response it also means we may be unavailable to respond, as quickly as we would like, to those patients suffering cardiac arrest or who have been involved in a serious road traffic collision – calls where every second really does count.

"The ambulance service is clear that anyone in a life threatening or serious situation and who needs an ambulance should call for one immediately."

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