Level of dangerous hoax calls to ambulance service revealed

More than 34 hours of ambulance staff time was taken up by hoax calls last year Picture: SIMON PARKE

More than 34 hours of ambulance staff time was taken up by hoax calls last year Picture: SIMON PARKER - Credit: Archant

Hoax calls cost the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) more than 34 hours of wasted staff time last year, it has been revealed.

Statistics obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that the service received a total of 32 hoax calls in 2018 - costing it 34 hours and 11 minutes of paramedic and ambulance staff time.

The year before, the ambulance service also received 32 hoax calls, costing it 25 hours and 11 minutes.

Dorothy Hosein, interim chief executive of EEAST, urged the public to be aware of the impact of false calls on the service and warned that those who did make them would be referred to the police.

She said: “The ambulances attending these hoax calls are being prevented from helping those who really need an ambulance in an emergency.

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“Anyone making these calls will be referred to the police and should be prepared to receive a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.”

The ambulance service’s records show it has had one hoax call this year so far, which has already wasted almost 90 minutes of ambulance time.

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Sam Olden, regional organiser of the Unison East of England Ambulance branch, said although the time wasted was relatively minimal compared to the total staff hours, in an emergency situation where every second counts it could mean the difference between life and death.

He said: “The ambulance service staff hours run into the thousands so this is a relatively small amount of time in comparison.

“However, our clear message is that anyone who makes a hoax call is making an already difficult job even more difficult.

“We are already experiencing a level of resource escalation and this impacts the ambulance service even more through winter pressures.

“Our members take information given to them from members of the public who have phoned them on faith. If someone is saying their friend is having a cardiac arrest our staff will rush to the scene as a category one incident.

“Our message is that hoax calls makes the job of ambulance staff much more difficult.”

Mr Olden reminded the public that the ambulance service is designed to respond to emergency situations rather than routine medical care.

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