An ambulance service has reminded people to only phone 999 in an emergency after revealing its worst offenders for “inappropriate” calls - including a person who sought help after eating too much kebab.
Among the others who wasted the time of overstretched call handlers were: a person who misplaced their false teeth; one who got a ring stuck on their finger; someone who lost their voice and another who got their hand stuck in a letterbox.
Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) published some of the transcripts of conversations call handlers had with people who made inappropriate calls to the service.
“Tell me exactly what’s happened,” a worker said to the person who called about eating too much kebab.
“Yesterday evening”, the caller replied, “we had some kebab, and I might have had a little bit more than I’m used to, then this morning, I’ve had a very painful stomach.”
The incidents were revealed by the WAS, which said 68,416 of the 414,149 calls it received in the past 12 months were not a life or death emergency - an average of 188 per day.
“Inappropriate calls put additional strain on an already over-stretched service and may delay help for others,” Andy Swinburn, executive director of paramedicine, said. “Our highly skilled paramedics and technicians are trained to help those whose life is in imminent danger.
“That’s people in cardiac arrest, people with chest pain or breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, choking, severe allergic reactions, catastrophic bleeding or someone who is having a stroke.”
He added: “People who’ve had a cough for a couple of days have a legitimate clinical need, but it’s ill-judged to call 999 when there are so many other ways to access help.
“Our plea to the public is to apply your common sense – most people know the difference between a real emergency and something that is uncomfortable, painful or irritating but not life-threatening. Make the right call.
The person who lost their teeth said: “I have a bottom part denture, and I went to clean my teeth and I said, ‘Where’s my false teeth?’ This sounds crazy… but I don’t know what else to do. Could I have swallowed my false teeth?”
The operator replied: “So, you don’t know where your false teeth are?”
Lee Brooks, executive director of operations, said: “The NHS 111 Wales website should be your first port of call for advice and information, or you could call 111 if it’s urgent, and our call handlers will help signpost you to the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time.
“You could also visit your local pharmacist, where experts in medicines can offer free clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of common ailments, such as coughs, colds, rashes, aches and pains.”
He added: “And at Minor Injuries Units, experienced emergency practitioners can deal with things like minor burns, bites and stings, as well as minor eye injuries.
“Ensure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet for things which can be treated at home, like cut fingers, headaches and sore throats.
“And if you have prescription medication, please keep on top of it and collect it on time.
“If you or your loved one is ill or injured, ask yourself whether you really need the attention of the emergency services or if you can use an alternative or make your own way to hospital.”