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THE WELSH AMBULANCE SERVICE has revealed the most inappropriate calls made to 999 in the past year.

Among them was someone who had eaten a moldy tomato and someone who had wet his plaster.

One person with an earring lodged in their ear requested an “elevator” from the emergency department, while another dialed 999 for a paper cut.

Of the 470,653 incidents recorded by the service in the past 12 months, almost a quarter were non-essential, including one person with diarrhea and one person asking about their medications.

Faced with unprecedented demand, the ambulance service is reminding people to call 999 only in serious or life-threatening emergencies.

General Manager Jason Killens said, “Our ambulance service exists to help people who are seriously ill or injured, or when there is an immediate threat to their life.

“These are people who have stopped breathing, people with chest pain or difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, choking, severe allergic reactions, catastrophic bleeding, or someone with stroke.

“People who have something stuck in their ear always have a clinical need, but calling 999 for it is misjudged when there are so many other ways to access more appropriate help.

“Non-essential calls make up almost a quarter of our 999 total calls, and the time spent dealing with them could be time spent helping someone in a life or death situation.”

As Covid-19 tightens its grip, the Trust asks the public to consider the many alternatives to 999.

Chief Operating Officer Lee Brooks said, “Winter has traditionally been our busiest time, and we also face a global pandemic.

“It’s easy to laugh at people who stupidly call 999, but the reality is these people have a legitimate clinical need – they just don’t know where to turn.

“We ask the public to find out about the NHS services available in their area, of which there are many.

“The symptom checkers on the NHS 111 Wales website are a good place to start for advice and information, or you can call 111 to speak with a nurse or health information advisor.

“Also think about your pharmacist, dentist and optician in your region, as well as your minor injury department and your general practitioner.

“Also make sure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet for things that can be treated at home, like coughs and colds, sore throats, and scratched knees.

“Each of us has a responsibility to use NHS services wisely and protect them for those who need them most.

“Help us help you and think twice before you call 999.”

Examples

The following are actual 999 calls made to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the past year –

Call 1

Listener: Basically I had an ear piercing a few weeks ago. Everything went well, but last night I woke up and the piercing was gone. I can’t find the piercing and feel it might be in my eardrum.

Operator: Okay, okay.

Appellant: Normally I would go to A&E myself, but I don’t actually have any money. An elevator to A&E would be amazing.

Call 2

Listener: My neighbor came here and gave me a sandwich, cheese and tomato. Anyway, I feel pretty sick now. I looked at the tomatoes and there is mold on them.

Operator: OK, is that what you need an ambulance for?

Call 3

Auditor: I was poking around with my cast and it is falling apart. I don’t know if I should take a taxi or an ambulance.

Operator: Based on the information you provided, you need a more detailed assessment by a nurse. No ambulance will be dispatched at this time.

Listener: Oh, you’re kidding. Are you serious?

Operator: We are extremely busy at the moment.

Caller: I’ll take a taxi.

Call 4

Auditor: I cut my arm, my arm cut off.

Operator: How did you do this?

Auditor: I cut it out on a piece of paper.

Operator: When did this happen?

Appellant: About half an hour ago.

Operator: Is there any severe bleeding?

Caller: No.

Call 5

Operator: Tell me exactly what happened.

Listener: Basically my mom drank apple cider vinegar but mixed it with water and lemon. Now she has diarrhea.

Call 6

Caller: Oh, hello. Basically, my hand is in plaster. It’s been there three weeks and I got it wet.

Operator: OK.

Caller: It’s not a real emergency, I just need to go to the hospital.

Call 7

Listener: What is it, right, I have different drugs and I don’t know whether or not I can take them now.

Operator: What is your phone number?

Caller: I don’t want an ambulance, I just don’t know if I can take my meds or not.

Carol N. Valencia