999 call misuse prompts Welsh Ambulance Service campaign

Media caption,
Listen to 999 calls for toothache, hiccups, and a sore bikini line

People dialled 999 to ask for help for toothache, hiccups and a sore bikini line in the last year, according to the Welsh Ambulance Service.

Nearly a quarter of calls were deemed "not serious" in the year to September.

It has launched its Be Wise Save Lives campaign for people to use 999 sensibly as it heads into its busy period.

"Blocking our precious resources with these types of calls could literally be a matter of life or death," said chief executive Jason Killens.

"Time spent by call handlers tied up with a stubbed toe could be time spent giving CPR instructions for someone in cardiac arrest, or arranging help for the victim of a road traffic collision.

"Inappropriate calls to our emergency ambulance service are a problem year-round, but especially as we head into winter when people are sicker and we have adverse weather to contend with."

Of the 470,601 calls received in the last year, 116,674 were categorised as not serious or immediately life-threatening.

Image caption,
The ambulance service said the winter period was particularly busy with calls

What have people dialled 999 for?

  • Caller 1: "I need an STD test"
  • Caller 2: "I've had a lot of drink and I'm having hiccups. I can't stop"
  • Caller 3: "I'm having bad toothache right now and I don't have any painkillers"
  • Caller 4: "I shaved my bikini area on Saturday... I find it very uncomfortable"

Among other inappropriate callers was a man with a hangover and a group of children who dialled 999 to sing Christmas songs.

Operations director Lee Brooks said, while some were hoax calls, a "lot are from people who genuinely have no idea where else they can turn".

He advised people to seek advice from NHS Direct Wales' website or by calling on 0845 46 47 or 111. He said they could also visit a GP, pharmacy or attend a minor injuries unit.

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