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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 06:36 GMT
'Inappropriate' 999 calls tackled
The ambulance service gets about 500 emergency calls a day

A man who was scared of thunder and would not get off the phone until the storm ended was just one of a number of "inappropriate" calls made to the Westcountry Ambulance Service (WAS).

Now the service is launching new campaign to discourage such calls.

The WAS says that currently one in four of the calls it receives are inappropriate and it means hundreds of hours of their time is wasted.

They say one couple even called 999 to ask paramedics to come and fetch logs in from their shed, while another caller said she "wanted a hug".

Some inappropriate 999 calls
One lady "wanted a hug"
One caller lost a remote control
One woman broke a fingernail
A request for help to charge an pre-pay electric meter
Devon-based celebrity Noel Edmonds is giving his backing to the campaign.

The ambulance service deals with about 500 emergency calls every day from across the South West.

However, on Christmas Day 2003, about 179 emergency calls out of 493 to the service were described as inappropriate, bringing the ratio up to one in three being not considered an emergency.

The service is pleading to the residents of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset to remember that ambulances are for emergencies and not to dial 999 for trivial reasons so that patients who need life saving treatment will get help as quickly as possible.

Other calls have featured one person wanting help to turn their central heating down and another who was unable to get out of their chair and who called 999 to get a crew to turn their kettle off.

The service said lives were put at risk by thoughtless use of the 999 service and that emergency ambulances should only be used in certain situations.

It said it considered suspected heart attacks, severe bleeding, accidents where immediate medical intervention is necessary or where life was threatened due to a medical condition as being appropriate.

The service said if it was not such a medical emergency, people should use other services such as NHS Direct, Walk In Centres or even, if they are able to, making their own way to their local hospital's accident and emergency department.

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