A man dialled 999 after a woman stubbed her toe on a Christmas tree. Another called the Welsh Ambulance Service to wish his friends a “Merry Christmas”, and a woman asked for help for a stinging sensation after shaving her bikini line.
One man even asked for ambulance assistance to get into a locked church, while another called with toothache.
They are among a list of inappropriate calls received by the Welsh Ambulance Service over the past year and their publication signals the launch of the ‘Be Wise Save Lives’ campaign for people to use 999 sensibly, as the service heads into the busy winter period.
Of the 470,601 calls received in the last year, 116,674 – almost a quarter – were categorised as not serious or immediately life-threatening.
Chief executive Jason Killens said: “Inappropriate calls to our emergency ambulance service are a problem year-round, but especially as we head into winter when people are sicker and we have adverse weather to contend with.
“Our ambulance service exists to help those whose life is in imminent danger and for those who are seriously ill or injured.
“Time spent by call handlers tied up with a stubbed toe could be time spent giving CPR instructions for someone in cardiac arrest, or arranging help for the victim of a road traffic collision.
“Blocking our precious resources with these types of calls could literally be a matter of life or death, and our request to the community is simple: help us help you when you need it most and think carefully before you dial 999.”
Among the other inappropriate callers to the ambulance service in the last 12 months were a man with a bad hangover and a woman who wanted an STD test after a mishap during sex.
On a separate occasion, a group of children rang 999 to sing Christmas songs to the call handler before hanging up.
Lee Brooks, the trust’s director of operations, added: “Many of these calls are plain hoax calls, but a lot are from people who genuinely have no idea where else they can turn.
“999 is one of many, many ways to seek medical assistance, so if you’re not seriously ill or injured, take an online Symptom Checker at www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk or call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 (or 111 if available in your area) for advice and information about where to turn.
“You can also visit your GP, pharmacist and optician, as well as your local minor injuries unit where there is no need for an appointment.”
He added: “We began creating our plans as early as March to ensure we are as prepared as can be for the busy winter period, but we need the public to use us appropriately so we can deliver the best service possible during this busy time.
“The public should also prepare themselves ahead of the Christmas period. For example, if you rely on medicines, check to make sure these are stocked as the public holidays can limit options for some people.”
Follow the campaign on social media using the hashtag #BeWiseSaveLives