Inappropriate calls - call us for the right reason

Posted 30/06/2015 14:10:36

With the summer holidays upon us the three emergency services are pooling their resources in a bid to reduce the amount of unnecessary and inappropriate calls made to the Joint Communication Centre in St Asaph.

A report of someone complaining about their neighbour's washing machine, a request for assistance in retrieving a football from a roof, a complaint about waiting for a taxi, a child playing on the telephone, a complaint regarding wrongly prescribed medication and a man wanting his bedroom light turning off are just some of the examples of the inappropriate calls North Wales Police, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Welsh Ambulance Service Trust have received recently.

To listen to some of the inappropriate calls received by emergency services please click here.

The information is being made public as the three emergency services launch a campaign to help reduce the amount of unnecessary and inappropriate calls made to the Joint Communications Centre in St Asaph and to further promote the 101 non-emergency line.

Traditionally the summer is one the busiest times of year for the emergency services and officers are asking people to use the 999 system wisely to help ensure a genuine emergency is not missed over the holidays.

Last year the Force received105,930calls during the summer holiday period (June through to September) including emergency and non-emergency calls.

Superintendent Alex Goss is urging people to make sure that they use the 999-line appropriately, and only contact the non-emergency line if it is a police matter.

He said: "We are now approaching one of our busiest times of the year. Each unnecessary call to us reduces time available for calls which are for genuine policing matters.

"Phoning 999 - which is an emergency line, for trivial matters such as being annoyed with your next door neighbour's spinning washing machine is a complete waste of resources, and could possibly prevent a genuine life or death emergency call being put through."

Sandra Williams, Head of Control at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Reducing demand on our services means we can concentrate on providing a better service for the public and can ensure we attend real emergencies.

"Although the problem of unnecessary and inappropriate calls has a comparatively lower impact on the Fire and Rescue Service than on other emergency services, we are working together with North Wales Police and the Wales Ambulance Service to maintain links and ensure continued vigilance and improvement on this.

"In addition to working collaboratively on reducing demand with our partners in our own service area, we also continue to work collaboratively with the other two fire and rescue services across Wales.

"One area where this continues to be successful is in the continued support by all three fire and rescue services of the All Wales Call Challenge Strategy which is aimed at reducing the number of appliances, resources and staff attending incidents that do not require attendance. Control Operators reacting to a 999 call can use their experience and judgement to determine if the incident described is a hoax, requires a reduced response or should be redirected to a more appropriate department or agency. "

Sonia Thompson, the Welsh Ambulance Service's Head of Operations for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area, said: "Unfortunately, we still receive a significant number of inappropriate calls that do not require an ambulance response.

"We don't want to deter anyone from calling 999, but we want them to think twice before they do.
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.

"If you're ill or injured and are unsure what to do, call NHS Direct Wales where advisors are on hand 24 hours a day for advice and information. If you need an ambulance, they can arrange one for you.

"As the weather hots up, don't forget to check out the NHS Direct Wales website, where there are more than 20 symptom checkers for things like stings, sunburn and allergies."

"If you have cuts, bites, muscle and joint injuries, visit your local Minor Injuries Unit, where there is no need for an appointment."

"You can also download the free Choose Well app to your iPhone, iPad or Android, which is your official guide to choosing the right NHS service in Wales."

"If more people 'Choose Well' it means that more of our ambulances will be available to respond to people who genuinely need our help, like someone in cardiac arrest.

"Please only call 999 if you're seriously ill or injured, or your life is at risk."

Other examples of inappropriate calls made to the tri services include a complaint about the incorrect medicine being given by a doctor, a request for assistance in removing a hornets nest, a man with toothache, and a complaint that a taxi company were discriminating against them due to not having taxis available.

Phoning 101 for non-police matters, such as complaining about your bins not being emptied or a stray dog roaming the streets is also a waste of police resources.

There is a self-service tool on the North Wales Police website to assist those who do not require police, to pass on their calls and enquiries to our colleagues at the relevant local authority.

Supt Goss added: "Phoning 999 for routine matters will not result in an improved service to the caller. We do have powers to prosecute people for misusing the 999 system and if people are found to consistently making hoax calls they could face prosecution."

It can be hard to judge what is or is not an emergency, but in general, you should call 999 if:

  • A life is in danger or someone is being physically threatened, or if you are witnessing a crime happening at the time, or think the offenders are still nearby
  • You witness or are involved in a serious road traffic collision where someone is badly injured, or other vehicles are causing an obstruction or a danger to other road users

Otherwise calls should be made to the non-emergency line, 101 (calls to 101 from landlines and mobiles cost 15p per call, no matter what time of day you call or how long you call lasts).

Notes:

The non-urgent calls received by the Welsh Ambulance Service in recent years include:

- A man with toothache(Connah's Quay, October 2014)
- A woman with stomach cramps after a bad kebab (Denbigh, May 2015)
- A woman who had been bitten by cat (Flint, January 2015)
- A man with an abscess on his bottom, can't walk (Mold, June 2013)
- Man wanted his bedroom light turning off (Bangor, June 2013)
- An intoxicated woman who wanted a lift home (St Asaph, April2014)
- Man with something up his bottom (Colwyn Bay, October 2013)
- A woman with sunburned feet (July, 2013)

Total number of calls received by North Wales Police:

In 2014

  • 76,945 emergency (999) calls
  • 339,569 non-emergency calls
  • 16,273 requests for calls in the Welsh Language
  • 203,610 incidents recorded.

In 2013

  • 81,383 emergency (999) calls
  • 367,412 non-emergency calls
  • 25, 423 requests for calls in the Welsh language
  • 212,726 incidents recorded.

In 2012

  • 87,712 emergency calls
  • 433,447 non-emergency calls
  • 23,561 requests for calls in the Welsh language
  • 225,000 incidents recorded

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