AMBULANCE chiefs have blasted prank callers as the service dealt with almost 20,000 calls in the last two weeks.

The Welsh Ambulance Service is asking people to continue to take precautions after the record-breaking heatwave earlier this week.

Breathing problems was the number one reason people called 999, while calls to drownings and to people with heat exposure also increased.

While temperatures have dropped from the record-breaking highs, the remainder of the week is still set to be warm, so the trust is asking the public to continue to follow advice and use 999 appropriately.

Of the 19,517 calls made to the service across 4-18 July, almost a fifth were non-essential, including from someone who had eaten a raw chicken kiev and someone with laundry detergent in their eye.

One person called 999 with a swollen finger, another called with earache and another called because their tooth had fallen out. Sixteen hoax calls were also made in the same period, including from someone reporting a dog had been stabbed.

Lee Brooks, the Trust’s Executive Director of Operations, said: “Our ambulance service exists to help people who are seriously ill or injured or where there is an immediate threat to their life, so time spent dealing with non-essential calls could be time spent helping someone in a life or death situation.

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

“Hoax calls are a different story altogether because it’s someone who’s gone to deliberate lengths to waste our time, which is frankly appalling.”

The trust is asking the public to consider the alternatives to 999, starting with the NHS 111 Wales website, which should now be the first port of call for health advice and information.

“We’re not out of the woods just yet,” said Lee.

“Whilst it won’t be as hot, the remainder of the week is still predicted to be very warm with temperatures in the mid-20s for the next couple of days.

“Despite the temperature drop, there remains a very real danger to our health, especially if you have a pre-existing condition, like asthma or angina.

“Clinical colleagues have also spoken to lots of patients who aren’t hydrated enough, so while it may seem obvious, it’s really important to take on lots of fluids.

“The extreme pressures on our ambulance service have been well-documented in recent weeks, and extensive hospital handover delays, sustained higher numbers of life-threatening ‘Red’ calls and Covid-19 related staff absence remain with us.

“Ultimately, we want everyone to enjoy the warm spell, but please do so sensibly and mindfully to avoid a call to 999.” Lee added: “I would just like to thank our staff and volunteers who consistently deliver their very best in difficult circumstances.”