Worthing man obsessed with feet plagued 111 helpline costing the NHS £20,000

  • Video report from ITV News Meridian's Abigail Bracken

A nuisance caller, who was obsessed with feet, plagued an NHS helpline with more than one thousand calls and put the lives of genuine patients at risk.The South East Coast Ambulance Service says that Richard Cove, who is from Worthing, bombarded the 111 service with over 1,200 calls over the course of 2 years.

He used false names and contact details and often wanted to talk about his feet, or the call taker's feet.

  • Richard Cove uses pseudonym of "Paulo" in one call about his feet.

In on call, Cove uses the pseudonym of "Paulo" to initiative a conversation about his feet:

Cove: "My first name is Paulo- P.A.U.L.O" Call handler: "Which symptom is your main concern?"Cove: "I've got on my ankle, like a bite on the side of the foot"Call handler: "And have you got anything tight around your foot that won't come off?"Cove: "No, no, I'm barefoot"

Over two years, calls like these wasted more than £20,000 worth of NHS money.

They also left staff feeling used, as he indulged his obsession with feet.

  • Richard Cove uses pseudonym of "Sarah" to talk about his "sweaty smelly feet".

In another call, Richard Cove pretended he was a woman named Sarah, and went into detail about the state of his feet:

Call handler: "And your first name?"Cove: "Is Sarah... I'm suffering from very sweaty smelly feet"Call handler: "Right, ok, and the main concern is your feet is it?"

At least 6 ambulances were sent out in response to his calls and fire crews broke down one homeowner's door because they thought a life was at risk.

  • David Davis, South East Coast Ambulance Service

David Davis, from the South East Cost Ambulance Service, said: "They could tell it was a fabricated call after this individual had done it the first few hundred times, but also having someone asking personal information about their feet."

He added: "It could be that we didn't have someone available to answer that 111 call or that 999 call at a time that we needed to."

The magistrates' Chairman Mr Andrew White said that the impact on the NHS had been 'frankly colossal'.

He said because of the amount of calls Cove made and the amount of money he cost the NHS, he would would go beyond the guidelines when sentencing.

Richard Cove left Worthing Magistrates Court with a 16 week prison sentence, suspended for two years.

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