999 caller - 'I can't defrost my turkey'
A BUDGIE with breathing difficulties and someone who needed help defrosting a turkey are two of the crazy calls answered by paramedics in the last year.
Paramedics were sent to hundreds of incidents where they believed patients were in serious trouble. But in some cases the caller:
Had rung because they were bored
Wanted a free lift home because they couldn't afford a taxi
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Was distressed because their fridge was broken
Had a pet budgerigar with breathing difficulties
Wanted advice on how to defrost a turkey.
Paramedics also went to the home of a man who claimed to have been bitten by a snake – only to find he was high on drugs and the snake was on a wildlife programme on TV.
Neil Spencer, improvement manager at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said it was not always easy to determine which 999 calls were genuine emergencies. "If we are in any doubt, we'll send people out," said Mr Spencer.
"We often find that people making hoax calls can sound genuine. They give quite detailed descriptions and it is only when crews get there they realise that it is not actually the case."
The average cost per ambulance call-out is £203.
Control room operators receive hundreds more calls a year where it is clear that an ambulance is not needed, as people are either playing a prank or the caller's condition is not serious enough to need medical assistance.
From April 2011 to March 2012, East Midlands Ambulance Service received 843 of these calls. Crews also attended a further 3,321 calls where no patient was found when they arrived.
Of these, 689 were classed as "red" calls – meaning the injuries were thought to be life-threatening.
The rest were "green" calls, where the injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, but an urgent response was required. Mr Spencer said that hoax and inappropriate calls tied up valuable resources – and could delay responses to real emergencies.
"It is a big concern for us," he said. "We have a fixed amount of resources – like crews and vehicles – that we can respond with. Demand is going up and if we have got staff tied up on a hoax call, that can mean somebody is delayed getting to a genuine emergency."
Mr Spencer said a record was made of persistent hoax callers who could be prosecuted or have their phones cut off.
He urged everyone to think carefully before calling for an ambulance.
"If you know it is an emergency call 999," he said. "If you are not sure, there are other places you could ring."
These include the NHS 111 service and NHS Direct on 0845 4647.