THE Welsh Ambulance Service has revealed some of the inappropriate calls made to 999 in the past year.
Among them was someone who had lost their voice, someone with a ring stuck on their finger and someone who had misplaced their false teeth.
One person called 999 because they had eaten too much kebab, while another had their hand stuck in a letterbox.
Of the 414,149 calls to the ambulance service last year, 68,416 were not a life-or-death emergency – an average of 188 calls a day.
The trust is reminding people only to call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured.
Andy Swinburn, Executive Director of Paramedicine, said: “Inappropriate calls put additional strain on an already over-stretched service and may delay help for others.
“Our highly skilled paramedics and technicians are trained to help those whose life is in imminent danger.
“That’s people in cardiac arrest, people with chest pain or breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, choking, severe allergic reactions, catastrophic bleeding or someone who is having a stroke.
“People who’ve had a cough for a couple of days have a legitimate clinical need, but it’s ill-judged to call 999 when there are so many other ways to access help.
“Our plea to the public is to apply your common sense – most people know the difference between a real emergency and something that is uncomfortable, painful or irritating but not life-threatening.
“Make the right call.”
The service is asking people to educate themselves about the alternatives to 999.
Lee Brooks, Executive Director of Operations, said: “If it’s not a serious or life-threatening emergency, it’s really important that you consider the alternatives to 999.
“The NHS 111 Wales website should be your first port of call for advice and information, or you could call 111 if it’s urgent, and our call handlers will help signpost you to the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time.
“You could also visit your local pharmacist, where experts in medicines can offer free clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of common ailments, such as coughs, colds, rashes, aches and pains.
“And at Minor Injuries Units, experienced emergency practitioners can deal with things like minor burns, bites and stings, as well as minor eye injuries.
“Ensure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet for things which can be treated at home, like cut fingers, headaches and sore throats.
“And if you have prescription medication, please keep on top of it and collect it on time.
“If you or your loved one is ill or injured, ask yourself whether you really need the attention of the emergency services or if you can use an alternative or make your own way to hospital.
“We’re here to help people in their hour of need, but we also need the public to take some ownership and accountability for their health and wellbeing at a time when NHS services are stretched beyond measure.
“Every single one of us has a responsibility to use NHS services wisely and protect them for those who need them most.”
Chief Executive Jason Killens added: “We know it’s confusing to access NHS services – you don’t know what’s open when and which healthcare professional is best placed to help.
“Longer-term, our ambition is to play a strengthened role in the broader NHS system to help patients navigate the right pathway to the most appropriate service, and that includes non-urgent health queries too.
“But until then, we need the public to continue to use us sensibly to protect our precious resources for those who need us most.”
The following are real 999 calls made to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the past year –
Operator: Ambulance, what’s the address of the emergency?
Caller: Hi, yeah, erm… I know it doesn’t 100% qualify as this but my wife must have accidentally rubbed chilli in her eyes and her eyes are burning. She’s tried washing them and nothing’s happening.
Operator: Tell me exactly what’s happened.
Caller: Yesterday evening, we had some kebab, and I might have had a little bit more than I’m used to, then this morning, I’ve had a very painful stomach.
Caller: My ring is stuck on my finger; I need it cut off.
Operator: Is your breathing normal for you?
Caller: My breathing’s fantastic, yeah.
Operator: Are you bleeding or vomiting blood?
Caller: I’m not bleeding, no.
Operator: And do you have any pain?
Caller: Yeah, a little bit.
Operator: From the information that you have provided, you do require a more detailed assessment by a nurse, so an ambulance will not be sent at this time.
Caller: How am I going to get there then? Can you just come and see me please?
Caller: What it is with her, her voice has given on her. We don’t know what to do. We’ve tried lemon and whatever, but it’s not doing any good.
Operator: Where is she in pain?
Caller: It’s her throat. She can hardly speak.
Operator: And is it just that she’s lost her voice, is it?
Operator: Ambulance service, what’s the address of the emergency?
Caller: I wouldn’t say it’s an emergency, but I don’t know how to get down to hospital. I have a piercing in my ear, and it’s pretty much been ripped out and the ball’s stuck in my ear.
Operator: So, the ball from your piercing is stuck inside your ear?
Operator: Is the patient awake?
Caller: Yeah, it’s me, my hand’s stuck in the door.
Operator: Is the door locked at the moment?
Caller: Yeah, it’s locked. Mam! No, my hand’s stuck in the f*****g letterbox.
Operator: How old are you?
Caller: Open the door, my hand’s stuck!
Operator: Tell me exactly what’s happened.
Caller: I’ve had a cough for the last couple of days.
Operator: What’s that sorry, you’ve got a cough?
Operator: We are currently experiencing a large number of life-threatening emergencies. An ambulance is not available to respond to you. Our advice is to ring 111.
Caller: I have a bottom part denture, and I went to clean my teeth and I said, ‘Where’s my false teeth?’ This sounds crazy… but I don’t know what else to do. Could I have swallowed my false teeth?
Operator: So, you don’t know where your false teeth are?