Ambulance hoax call-out levels are ‘despicable’

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw branded the number of hoax call-outs as 'absolutely despicable'. Picture: Jane Barlow
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw branded the number of hoax call-outs as 'absolutely despicable'. Picture: Jane Barlow
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CONSERVATIVES are demanding tough punishments for hoax callers to the ambulance service after figures showed more than 6,100 malicious 999 calls have been made in the last three years.

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw branded the number of hoax call-outs as “absolutely despicable”.

He added that “stiff punishments” were needed for those caught carrying out the “loathsome practice” to deter others.

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Mr Carlaw made his comments after figures released to the Conservatives under freedom of information rules revealed that over the period 2011-12 to 2013-14 there were 6,102 999 calls made for an ambulance that were deemed to be malicious.

This includes 2,294 incidents where an ambulance was dispatched and it was only discovered the call was a hoax when the crew arrived at the scene.

In 2013-14 there were 1,732 malicious call-outs, a drop from the previous year’s total of 1,948 and down from 2,422 in 2011-12.

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Mr Carlaw said: “These figures are absolutely despicable.

“No one would be surprised if there were a handful of hoax calls from bored teenagers but the sheer scale of this suggests a problem far more deep-rooted.”

He said the number of malicious call-outs would be “a huge headache for call-handlers and managers”, adding: “Twice a day, ambulance vehicles are actually sent out on these jobs under blue light only to find upon arrival it was all a prank.

“That’s not only a massive waste of resources but it’s putting at risk those who genuinely need the urgent attention of an ambulance.

“We have to ensure stiff punishments are in place for those who are caught engaging in this loathsome practice, which would deter others from embarking on similar behaviour in future.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our ambulance crews work day in and day out responding to emergency calls across the country and anyone who calls 999 without a genuine need is potentially putting lives at risk by tying up valuable resources that could be needed to respond to a life-threatening call.

“The Scottish Ambulance Service answers approximately 700,000 calls per year, around 500,000 of which receive an emergency response.

“While the majority of people in Scotland use our emergency services responsibly, we take any acts of malicious or nuisance-calling very seriously and fully support our police, prosecutors and courts to hold those responsible to account.

“The Scottish Ambulance Service makes every effort to identify calls which may be linked to a mental health issue and, where possible, advises the relevant agencies so that appropriate care can be provided.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Ambulance crews respond to over 600,000 emergency incidents per year.

“Anyone who calls 999 without a genuine need is potentially putting lives at risk by tying up valuable resources that could be needed to respond to a life-threatening call.

“When appropriate, malicious or nuisance callers are reported to the police, however in many cases the call is the result of a mental health issue, rather than malice and the patient may still need help.

“In these cases the relevant agencies are advised so that appropriate care can be provided.”

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