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LISTEN: Surge in hoax 999 calls to ambulance service

LISTEN: Surge in hoax 999 calls to ambulance service

Published by Emma Carton at 6:47am 9th August 2018. (Updated at 7:59am 9th August 2018)

The ambulance service that covers Cornwall deals with over 700 hoax calls in a year.

It worked out to more than two a day and stopped crews reaching almost 100 real emergencies.

South-west control rooms are reporting another surge since the start of the school holidays.

Bosses think many are coming from children and are urging parents to keep tabs on their mobiles.

Head of clinical hubs for South Western Ambulance Service, Dave Fletcher, describes one recent prank that wasted crews' time.

"We'd been told that someone had been significantly injured following a fall down a very big hole.

"We went to provide assistance to that patient, in as quick a time possible, and then learnt that there was no patient there and this was a hoax call".

When they rang the caller back they were met with children laughing. This wasted journey meant that the crew were unable to attend genuine patients in need of care.

Listen to a child's call to South Western Ambulance Service to say someone was seriously injured after falling down a hole, that turned out to be a hoax

"The way that the system is set up is to identify those patients that require time-critical life-saving interventions and for those types of patients, we aim to get there within seven minutes.

"If that ambulance is dealing with a hoax call, that could be an ambulance that's not available to help that patient that does need life-saving treatement so the consequences of a hoax call can be incredibly serious".

Head of clinical hubs for South Western Ambulance Service, Dave Fletcher

What happens when a hoax call is made?

All emergency calls are recorded and can be traced. SWASFT will prosecute offenders if necessary.

Last year, 774 hoax calls were made to the ambulance service which distracted paramedics from attending 91 real emergencies.

"Making hoax calls can put lives at risk. We strongly encourage parents to impress upon their children the importance of only dialing 999 in a genuine emergency situation.

"It is vital that people understand and appreciate the consequences associated with making hoax calls.

"We work with the police and other partners to seek the prosecution of people who abuse the 999 system".

Chief Executive, Ken Wenman

When should I call 999?

Examples of when to call 999 include choking, chest pain, stroke, serious blood loss and unconsciousness.

Using 999 correctly helps paramedic crews to reach those patients most in need of medical attention.

Alternative healthcare options for less serious conditions include visiting your local pharmacy, visiting a minor injuries unit or NHS walk-in centre, or calling NHS 111.

You can also find information and advice on the NHS website.

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