February 26, 2021

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‘999? I can’t sleep!’ – The most inappropriate calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service revealed

SOMEONE dialled 999 because they couldn’t sleep, while another called because a pigeon had injured its wing.

Other inappropriate calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the past year were from someone with onion juice in their eye, a person who thought they had poo in a cut and someone who had trapped their finger in a door.

Of the 457,375 calls made to the service in the last 12 months, almost a quarter were non-essential, including someone with toothache and someone with a week-old buzzing in their ear.

As it enters its busiest period, the ambulance service is reminding people only to call 999 in a serious or life-threatening emergency.

Chief Executive Jason Killens said: “Our ambulance service exists to help people who are seriously ill or injured, or where there is an immediate threat to their life.

“That’s people who’ve stopped breathing, people with chest pain or breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, choking, severe allergic reactions, catastrophic bleeding or someone who is having a stroke.

“People with toothache and trapped fingers still have a clinical need, but calling 999 for that need is ill-judged and misguided when there are so many other ways to access more appropriate help.

“Non-essential calls represent nearly a quarter of our 999 calls, and time spent dealing with these could be time spent helping someone in a life or death situation.”

The Trust is asking the public to think carefully before they call 999 as it enters the busy winter period.

Director of Operations Lee Brooks said: “Winter is traditionally our most challenging period, and this year we also have a global pandemic to contend with.

“It’s easy for us to mock the people who call 999 foolishly, but actually, these people do have a legitimate clinical need – they just don’t know where to turn for it.

“We’re asking the public to educate themselves on the NHS services available in their area, of which there are many.

“The NHS 111 Wales website is a good place to start for advice and information, but think about your local pharmacist, dentist and optician, as well as your GP and minor injuries unit.

“Also ensure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet for things which can be treated at home, like coughs and colds, sore throats and grazed knees.

“Every single one of us has a responsibility to use NHS services wisely and protect them for those who need them most – one day that could be your child, parent, partner or even you.

“Help us help you this winter, and think twice before you call 999.”

Examples
The following are real 999 calls that have been made to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the last 12 months. All of these callers were re-directed to the NHS Direct Wales/111 service for assessment by a nurse, with the exception of the last caller, who was redirected to the RSPCA –

Call 1
Caller: I’ve got onion juice in both my eyes and I don’t know what to do.
Operator: Tell me exactly what’s happened.
Caller: I was chopping onions and I don’t think I’ve washed my hands properly and I think I’ve got onion juice in both my eyes, and I don’t know what to do.

Call 2
Caller: I’ve noticed a small cut on my arm and I’m scared that something’s gone in it.
Operator: What do you think’s gone in the cut?
Caller: Poo.
Operator: Do you have any pain?
Caller: There is – very, very slight. It’s on my arm where the cut is, but it’s like, very minor, you can barely notice it.

Call 3
Caller: Basically, what’s happened, I’ve caught my finger in a door, it’s pulled my ring and my finger is very inflamed, and it’s cut.
Operator: Is there any serious bleeding?
Caller: No, it’s just cut.

Call 4
Caller: I cannot go to sleep.
Operator: You cannot go to sleep?
Caller: No.
Operator: OK, what’s the reason for that? Have you got any symptoms?
Caller: I’m OK but I cannot get to sleep.

Call 5
Operator: Is the patient awake?
Caller: I’m calling for my partner, who has toothache.

Call 6
Operator: What’s the full address of the emergency please?
Caller: It’s not a big emergency but I didn’t know who to call.
Operator: Tell me exactly what’s happened.
Caller: For the past week or so, I’ve gone deaf in one ear. Recently I’ve started to hear a buzzing noise, if that makes sense? I can’t hear very well in that ear.

Call 7
Operator: Ambulance, what’s the address of the emergency?
Caller: It’s an emergency but not for me, it’s for an animal. Is this the right place to call?
Operator: You’ve come through on an emergency line.
Caller: I’ve got a pigeon outside my house and it’s injured, it can’t fly. I feel sorry, I don’t know what to do.

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