Calling an ambulance for a sick cat, dandruff or a lift home? Make the right 999 call

Calling an ambulance for a sick cat, dandruff or a lift home? Make the right 999 call

Emergency Call Handler in Nottingham EOC

A sick cat, dandruff and someone who wanted us to do their shopping are just some of the inappropriate 999 calls our emergency call handlers have taken in the last month.

We answer over 2,000 999 calls a day from people requiring emergency medical assistance for cardiac arrests, strokes, breathing difficulties and serious injuries.

Sadly, some of the 999 calls are not for emergency situations and when one of our call handlers are on the phone to these inappropriate calls, they are not able to help someone in a real emergency.

This month, inappropriate calls have included a man who was kicked out of a club after a night out but had no money to get home, and someone who had been waiting in A&E for an hour and a half and called 999 rather than speak to the hospital reception.

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, contacting a GP or a pharmacist or visiting 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. Our emergency call handlers are trained to deliver life-saving instructions over the phone and we will get help to you as quickly as possible.

“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.”

Top 10 most inappropriate 999 calls received by EMAS in March


  1. Bitten by hamster– Minor injury and plaster needed.
  2. Dandruff.
  3. Wanted us to do shopping.
  4. Took dressing off blister on foot and now hurts to walk.
  5. Man called to say bitten by dog – but the incident was two months ago.
  6. Angry man kicked out of a club and has no money to get home as he spent all his money on night out.
  7. Man called for ambulance for his cat.
  8. A dead cat.
  9. Sore on nose and waiting for GP to call back.
  10. Waiting in A&E for 1.5 hours so called 999.

In March, we also received 6,450 '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 March, our emergency call handlers were able to help many people in a genuine emergency, including 765 calls for people in cardiac or respiratory arrest, 5,417 calls for people with chest pain, 1,756 calls to report a stroke, and 5,498 calls for assistance with breathing difficulties.

Make the right call. Be #999wise.

From 14.00 hours tomorrow we will be live tweeting from our 999 control room in Nottingham for an hour to raise awareness about the types of calls we do receive. Follow us using #999live.