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Non-urgent ambulance calls: Woman dialled ‘999’ because she needed lift home

The Welsh Ambulance Service is encouraging people to choose the appropriate service for their healthcare needs after more than 31,000 non-urgent calls were received in the last year.

The calls included:

  • A man who dialled 999 because he had a fly in his ear (Milford Haven, June 2014)
  • A woman who had eaten cherries and felt constipated (Porth, August 2013)
  • A man who had discovered a bruise on his foot (Tywyn, November 2013)
  • A woman who asked whether the green part of a potato was poisonous (Bangor, November 2013)
  • A man with a ring stuck on his finger (Burry Port, June 2014)
  • A woman whose boiler had broken and had no credit to call the gas board (Swansea, October 2013)
  • A woman who dropped a television remote and needed someone to pick it up (Llandudno, December 2013)
  • A woman who didn't have enough money to buy a train ticket (Newport, March 2014)
  • A man with a cotton bud stuck in his ear (Bridgend, August 2013)
  • A mother whose daughter had drunk water from a dog bowl (Swansea, December 2013)
  • A woman who was intoxicated and needed a lift home (St Asaph, April 2014)
  • A woman who needed advice because she had fallen out with her brother (Hereford,November 2013)
  • A man with blisters on his foot(Penmaenmawr, January 2014)
  • A woman with a cast on her leg and wanted it taken off (Tredegar, January 2014)

30,000 non-urgent calls to Welsh ambulance service in last year

The ambulance service advises callers to use NHS direct for minor injuries. Credit: PA

The Welsh Ambulance Service is reminding people not to call 999 unless it is a genuine emergency.

The service says it took 31,219 non-urgent calls in the last 12 months alone.

Of those calls, only 670 required an ambulance, and just three needed a patient to be taken to hospital.

They included a woman who dialled 999 to ask if the green part of a potato was poisonous, and a caller whose daughter had drunk water from a dog's bowl.

The Welsh Ambulance Service says it's working hard to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, and support care close to patient's homes.

"We don't want to deter anyone from calling 999, but we want them to think twice before they do. Sadly, we still receive a significant number of inappropriate calls that do not require an ambulance response.

"When people misuse the service it means our precious time is being taken away from someone who really does need our help. During peak periods, like the summer, every non-essential call has the potential to delay a response to a serious emergency."

– Richard Lee, Head of Clinical Services

Ambulance times are improving says government

Responding to claims by Plaid Cymru that ambulance waiting times for emergency calls are not being met the Welsh Government says the proportion of calls which resulted in a response of 20 minutes or longer represents 6.8% of calls received by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

While recent improvements in performance are encouraging, more needs to be done to ensure performance improves in the long term. The Minister for Health and Social Services has accepted a number of recommendations made following the recent review of Welsh Ambulance Services, with focus on delivering a clinical service to ensure patients receive the right response, at the right time and in the right place.

There is wide agreement that the eight minute target should not be seen as the only measure of ambulance performance. While speed is particularly important for some conditions such as cardiac arrest, there is little clinical evidence to suggest other less acute conditions would benefit from a blanket eight minute response. We are currently exploring how ambulance service performance can be measured to better reflect the outcome for the patient, not just the speed of arrival.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Emergencies response times 'disturbing' claim

Plaid Cymru say one emergency call took seven hours to respond to. Credit: PA

More than 11,000 emergency calls in Wales took ambulances more than 20 minutes to respond to, according to figures obtained by Plaid Cymru.

One Category A call took 7 hours to reach in the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board area while another in Cwm Taf took over four hours figures out today reveal.

Plaid Cymru submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out how many calls were responded to within 10 minutes - eight minutes is the target, 10-20 minutes, 20-30 minutes and more than 30 minutes.

Elin Jones, Plaid's Shadow Health spokesperson, said: "To have more than 11,000 of the most urgent calls taking more than double the target time of eight minutes to respond to is disturbing. These calls can be life and death situations where time is crucial.

Last month The Welsh Government said more needed to be done to raise the performance of ambulance response times. Figures released in May revealed they had missed their target for eleven months in a row.

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