Hundreds of South Devon residents are calling 999 for ‘scandalous’ requests like collecting rubbish and switching TV channels.
Ambulance personnel have pleaded with members of the public to stop misusing 999 calls, which could potentially put lives at risk.
The first appeal comes as West Country Ambulance became the first ambulance service in the country to streamline calls with the help of clinical advisors working in their control room, as part of a new partnership with NHS Direct.
A West Country Ambulance spokeswoman, Lynne Paramor said: “Half our calls are not emergencies. We have had calls from people asking us to come and take their neighbour’s rubbish away. This often happens on Bank holidays when they have nobody else to ring. They are holding up a line and someone in a real emergency might not get through. It’s scandalous.
“Someone asked if we would come and switch the TV over because they could not get out of bed. We get people ringing up and when we get there they ask us if we want a cup of tea and it’s because they are lonely.”
Other common calls are from drunk people, people with stomach upsets and those who are asking to have medicines brought round to their home.
West Country Ambulance control room also gets ‘frequent callers’ who ring up to 30 times a day. Lynne said: “We get hundreds of non-emergency calls in any one month. People are not thinking and this could cause misery to real 999 callers.”
All 999 callers go through to to a call centre in Liverpool, from there they are asked which service they require – ambulance, police or fire. The calls then get transferred to the correct control room.
The plan is to streamline calls which get through to the control room by transferring them to NHS Direct, which employs some former nurses. The aim is to prevent unnecessary emergency calls.