The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is urging members of the public to use its services wisely after receiving more than 2,000 inappropriate calls over the last three months.
In November, the trust received 805 inappropriate calls. In October, the figure was 758 and in September it was 668 – altogether totalling 2,231.
Misuse of the service puts staff and members of the public directly at risk. As well as wasting the time of call-handlers, inappropriate calls result in the unnecessary dispatch of emergency, non-emergency and patient transport ambulances – preventing them from getting to those patients genuinely in need.
Just as the NHS has a responsibility to the public, the public has a responsibility to use its services in an appropriate way.
The trust monitors the number of calls made and takes action where possible against those found to be misusing the service. Action may include the matter being reported to the police; the matter being reporting to the NHS Legal Protection Unit, with a view to it supporting criminal or civil proceedings or other sanctions (legal costs to be sought from the caller); obtaining a civil injunction (legal costs to be sought from the caller); seeking an anti-social behaviour order.
Yvonne Ormston, NEAS chief executive, said: “We take the inappropriate use of ambulance resources extremely seriously. Improper calls into our 999 and 111 contact centres and the unnecessary dispatch of resources reduce the number available for genuine emergencies.
“That genuine emergency could be someone you know and care about; it could even be a member of your family. Before you make that call, think to yourself ‘Is this an emergency?’ If the answer is no, please find an alternative way of getting help. An ambulance will not guarantee you will be seen any quicker.”