Call an ambulance for a lift to London? Make the right 999 call

Calling an ambulance for a lift? Make the right 999 call

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A lost credit card, a splinter, and someone who wanted a lift to see his friend in London are some of the inappropriate 999 calls our emergency call handlers have dealt with during April.

We are urging people to take a moment to stop and think ‘Am I making the right 999 call?’

We handle over 2,000 999 calls a day, many from people requiring emergency medical assistance for chest pain, strokes, breathing difficulties and cardiac arrests.

Sadly, some of the 999 calls we receive are not for emergency situations.  

While these calls do not receive an ambulance response because they did not have a serious or life-threatening medical need, when one of our call handlers is on the phone to these inappropriate calls, they are not able to help someone in a real emergency.

In April, we received dozens of inappropriate calls particularly for information which should have been obtained elsewhere including someone who couldn’t find their remote control, someone with a splinter in their finger, and a woman who asked for a plumber as her heating was not working.

Simon Tomlinson, General Manager for our Emergency Operations Centres, would like to remind people to only dial 999 in the event of a serious emergency and remember the other options available, such as calling NHS 111, contact their GP or a pharmacist or visit an NHS Walk in Centre.

 He said:  “When you call 999 because someone is unconscious, not breathing, having chest pains or has the symptoms of a stroke, you are making the right call.

“If you require information such as for a plumbing service, local chemist or your bank, you will receive the support you want more quickly if you contact them directly.

“Asking for a lift to London is not the right 999 call, someone in cardiac arrest is.

“Every 999 call is assessed so that the right help is provided to the right people, so you could receive the right treatment for you more quickly by contacting an alternative NHS service particularly if your call is not a serious emergency.”

 10 inappropriate 999 calls we received in April

1. Man asked for ambulance to give him a lift to London to see his friend

2. Someone called to check it was Monday

3. Heating not working and asking for a plumber to be sent out

4. Splinter in finger

5. Lost credit card and wanted to speak to her bank

6. Cannot get doctor’s appointment so can we send an ambulance

7. Toothache

8. Wanted to know where the nearest chemist is

9. No phone credit and wants to be put through to QMC

10. Cannot find TV remote to switch off TV  

Call breakdown for April

Of the 63,327 999 calls we received in April, 6,545 of them were 'unknown' calls. These are often calls made by people who are not near the patient and so do not know what is wrong with them but are calling to report ‘something they think they have seen’. 

When our emergency call handlers are dealing with these calls, they cannot speak to someone in a real emergency.

In April, our emergency call handlers were able to help many people in a genuine emergency, including 691 calls for people in cardiac or respiratory arrest, 4,923 calls for people with chest pain, 1,499 calls to report a stroke, and 5,227 calls for assistance with breathing difficulties.

We also received at least seven hoax calls from children during the Easter holidays and we are asking parents to speak to their children about when to call 999.

We will be live tweeting for an hour from our 999 control room from 2.30pm on Friday, 5 May.

If you need help finding the right NHS service you need, visit NHS Choices.