Ambulance trust highlights ‘misuse’ of emergency line after more than 1,000 hoax calls


- Credit: Archant

A drowning goldfish, an injured cat, a dead squirrel, and a drunk man wanting a taxi sound like elements from a dark comedy.

Instead, they are examples of some of the ‘emergency’ calls received by the region’s ambulance service so far this summer.

New figures revealed this week show that the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust has received 1,144 hoax calls over the last two years, which diverted time away from genuine emergencies.

As part of the It’s Your Call campaign, service bosses are highlighting the calls like these to make people think twice about calling 999.

These include a man asking for an “animal ambulance” for a critically injured squirrel in north Cambridgeshire.

This comes after the trust received a similar call about a dead squirrel in Essex last year and a drunk man outside an Essex nightclub who wanted a taxi.

As well as a woman calling about a cat with a broken leg in north Cambridgeshire and a child who called 999 and told a call handler in Chelmsford that their goldfish was “drowning”.

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A call also came in for an unconscious man in Bedford who turned out to be snoring in the back of a taxi.

Gary Morgan, head of emergency operations centres (EOC), said: “Just because 999 is an easy to remember number does not mean it is acceptable for people to misuse it or treat it as a telephone directory.

“Hoax and inappropriate 999 calls have the potential to divert attention away from real emergencies and we will refer people who misuse the service to our police colleagues to take action.

“We’d urge the public to remember that the ambulance service is for emergencies such as cardiac arrests, patients with chest pain and breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, strokes, trauma, choking and severe allergic reactions.”

The Trust launched It’s Your Call campaign last year, which aims to inform people and educate others on how 999 calls are handled and prioritised so that in the event of a medical problem, they feel better equipped to know what to do.