When not to call 999 this Christmas

They really shouldn’t have to be saying this, should they?

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is warning that misuse of its 999 service is putting people’s lives at risk.

It has revealed a selection of inappropriate emergency calls made recently to its control room to show examples of the wrong reasons people have called 999.

A woman reported finding a motionless body that turned out to be an abandoned beanbag.

She spotted what she thought was a person curled up in a sleeping bag beside a bin, but declined to verify what it was due to social distancing concerns.

The woman then left the scene and dialled the emergency number, saying she was “concerned for their welfare”.

A paramedic was sent to the incident, only to discover the discarded cushion instead of a patient on the street.

A man also called for an ambulance because he was worried he had caught a sexually transmitted infection from kissing a woman.

Other calls were made because:

1.    A man wanted bandaging for an ingrown toenail.

2.    A man’s central heating wasn’t working and he was cold.

3.    A caller was concerned a woman would overheat because she couldn’t take her coat off.

Hundreds of 999 calls are made to SWASFT every day involving patients who do not have serious or life-threatening conditions.

A SWASFT spokesperson said: “Our 999 service should only be used when someone is seriously injured or ill, and their life is at risk.

“Inappropriate calls are a waste of our time, put additional pressure on our limited resources, and may mean we cannot reach those who are most in need of our help.

“Please ‘Make the right call’ this winter. If you someone is unconscious, not breathing, or has serious bleeding, 999 is the right number to call.

“But if you call for an ambulance when you don’t really need one, you are misusing the 999 service and may well be delaying our emergency care to others.”

The Trust dealt with 19,108 incidents last week, an increase of around 200 incidents a day compared to normal, and is expecting demand to remain high throughout the next few weeks.

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