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Friday, August 17, 2012

Ambulance service under pressure from 999 time-wasters

The Welsh Ambulance Service and Emergency Departments (ED) across Wales are coming under sustained and unusual pressure this summer due to inappropriate 999 calls, Wales’ Acting Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Director of NHS Wales, Dr Chris Jones, has warned.
A combination of increased 999 call volumes and a rise in attendances at Emergency Departments has caused increased pressure over the past few weeks.
The NHS in Wales has released details of a number of inappropriate calls made to the 999 ambulance service in recent months.
They include:
  • A Woman who dialled 999 after being bitten on the finger by a hamster;
  • Two separate 999 calls recently for males with hangovers following a night out;
  • Afternoon calls where patients have injured themselves the night before but didn't feel it at the time as they were under the influence of alcohol. As the alcohol has worn off they found themselves in pain so dialled 999;
  • A woman phoned 999 saying she had a bad hand wound and was bleeding badly. A 999 ambulance crew arrived to find she'd had a minor scratch on the hand by her cat and was worried it might get infected;
  • A man had been to the GP in the morning and had been given ointment to rub on his back. He later phoned 999 and said he had a back problem. A crew turned up and he answered the door. Crew asked 'we thought you had a back problem?', to which the man replied 'I have. I haven't got anyone to rub this ointment on my back!'
  • A crew responded to a member of the public who said he was ill with stomach pains at pub in the centre of Cardiff. The crew conveyed him to UHW only for him to jump out at A&E and say 'thanks for the lift mate' and he ran off never to be seen again!
Dr Chris Jones explained that not everyone attending emergency departments or calling 999 are emergencies.
He said:
“ We are seeing a growing number of inappropriate emergency calls to the Ambulance service. A 999 call should only be made in the event of a serious medical emergency, such as when life is in immediate danger. All emergency health services are very busy and patients should only attend Emergency Departments (A&E) if they are very badly hurt or if they become very seriously ill.
“Patients have a role to play in helping ease this current pressure on emergency services by Choosing Well. This ensures patients will get the best treatment, and allows busy emergency NHS services to help the people who need them most.
"I'd urge people who need NHS care and are unaware of which service to access to consider using other services, such as NHS Direct Wales, by downloading the new, free Choose Well app for the iPhone, contacting GP out-of-hours services or visiting local pharmacies to self care at home."

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