Ingrowing toenails and STIs among inappropriate 999 calls ‘putting lives at risk’

 ‘Can you send an ambulance right now, I have been kissing someone with herpes,’ asks one caller

Peter Stubley
Monday 14 December 2020 20:16
Inappropriate 999 calls waste time and money and cost lives

A 999 caller asked for bandaging for his ingrowing toenail, an ambulance service revealed as it warned that inappropriate requests were putting lives at risk.

Another man begged for help because he was worried he had caught a sexually transmitted infection by “full-on snogging” with a woman.

And a businesswoman reported seeing a motionless body lying in the street, only for paramedics to find it was an abandoned beanbag.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said they were just a few of the hundreds of 999 calls that did not involve patients with serious or life-threatening conditions.

It dealt with 19,108 incidents last week, an increase of around 200 incidents a day compared with normal, and is expecting demand to remain high throughout the Christmas period.

“Our 999 service should only be used when someone is seriously injured or ill, and their life is at risk,” a spokesperson said.

“Inappropriate calls are a waste of our time, put additional pressure on our limited resources, and may mean we cannot reach those who are most in need of our help.”

Other inappropriate 999 calls involved a man who complained he was cold because his central heating was not working, and someone who claimed to be concerned a woman would overheat because she could not take her coat off.

The trust released audio of three calls including a man who said he had “been with a certain person”.

“She is herpes-infected and I have been full-on snogging, can you please send an ambulance?... Can you send someone to my location right now...?”

When the call handler said they could not guarantee an ambulance would be sent, he appeared to begin panicking and swearing, adding: “Could you please just send a (bleep) ambulance ... if I am going to get an STD (bleep) … seriously, oh my God, oh my God.”

The second caller said: “I’ve got an ingrowing toenail on both big toes, the one on the left needs bandaging badly.” He then added: “I wouldn't say this is an emergency.”

In the third call a woman rang 999 to say she had spotted what she thought was a motionless body in a sleeping bag beside a bin.

She added: “I am just concerned for their welfare. It looks like a person, I couldn’t be sure, because obviously I am keeping my distance at the moment. I couldn’t see a head or anything. It could be rubbish, but it's just the shape of it. It’s motionless.”

A paramedic was sent to the incident, only to discover the discarded cushion instead of a patient on the street.

The trust said that dialling 999 is the “right call” if someone is unconscious, not breathing, or has serious bleeding.

“But if you call for an ambulance when you don’t really need one, you are misusing the 999 service and may well be delaying our emergency care to others,” a spokesperson said.

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