NHS Wales reveals'bizarre and time-wasting' 999 calls

  • 15 November 2011
  • From the section Wales
Ambulance control room
Image caption 999 calls included a man who rang to report that his washing machine had broken down

A woman decided to call 999 for an ambulance after she dropped glue on her jeans and they stuck to her leg.

It was among the calls NHS Wales has received which health officials say are both bizarre and time-wasting.

Others included a request to remove a dead pigeon in Swansea and one from a man whose washing machine had broken.

The calls were highlighted by NHS Wales as part of its Choose Well campaign to direct people towards the right source of health information.

Choose Well, which was launched in February, uses a colour-coded "thermometer" so people can link their symptoms with the correct NHS service.

NHS Wales said there was evidence that a significant number of people still go to A&E or dial 999 when it would be more appropriate for them to ring the NHS Direct helpline or speak to a pharmacist, for instance.

NHS Wales said there has been a 205% rise in calls to the ambulance service since 1991 and a 12% increase in attendance to A&E departments across Wales in the past five years.

In another 999 call, a caller said their glass table had smashed. No one was injured but they were worried that their pet might cut itself.

Wales Ambulance Service paramedic Diana Phillips, 32, said there often better ways of seeking help than dialling 999 or visiting A&E.

"There's definitely more pressure on emergency departments these days," she said.

"In Newport we do tend to see a high level of calls that are down to social issues, particularly those related to alcohol," she continued.

"People should dial 999 for the ambulance service in situations where patients require immediate treatment and are in a life-threatening situation, but more and more often we are being used for non-emergency and inappropriate calls.

She said that on one occasion they turned up to a call and found a woman who had been scratched by a cat and was demanding to be taken to hospital.

In another incident, they received a call from someone who thought a moth had flown into their ear.

"We also receive calls from people who, rather than having an emergency illness, have been unwell for a number of weeks, haven't sought any other form of medical help during this time, and decide to call us because they're still feeling ill," said Diana.

"Calls like these can clog up the emergency care system, increase demand on hospitals and affect the time it takes us to get to very sick people and respond to other life threatening 999 calls".

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