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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 12:58 GMT
Ambulances reject 'trivial' 999 calls
An ambulance
Ambulance chiefs say minor 999 calls are risking lives
London ambulances have become the first in England to refuse to attend 999 calls considered to be too trivial.

"Inappropriate" calls from people with sore throats and stubbed toes are endangering lives, says London Ambulance Service (LAS).

Previously it had to send out ambulances to every 999 call, no matter how minor, if the caller demanded it.

But now trained phone staff will advise rejected callers about seeking treatment during the six-month pilot.

Calls for ambulances have been received from people with sore throats, a woman with her finger stuck in a bottle and a father concerned that his daughter had been caught in the rain.

Wasted time risks lives

Philip Selwood, the LAS assistant chief controller, said: "London Ambulance Service is not a taxi service and won't allow its staff or emergency resources to be wasted on inappropriate calls.

"They are a major problem because they divert our emergency resources away from patients with potentially life-threatening, time-critical conditions."

He said the new scheme would be introduced "very carefully" and patients' views would be canvassed for the first six months.

It follows similar moves by the Scottish Ambulance Service last year.

Jonathan Fox, of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel (APAP), said: "APAP welcomes the announcement by the London Ambulance Service of their 'no send policy' to deal with trivial or inappropriate calls.

"The Ambulance Service in the UK deals with 4.5million calls a year and call rates are increasing 5% to 10% each year.

"This has to be the first of many initiatives to handle the increasing demand on the Ambulance Service.

"Without these measures in place, paramedics and ambulance technicians will continue to have problems in reaching life-threatening calls and those most in need within eight minutes."

BBC London's Jane Francis Kelly
"Every 999 call should be an emergency but every day 100 people phone with non-urgent requests"

The BBC's Yvonne Ndege
"The service receives 100 trivial calls a day, from people with sore throats, headaches and minor cuts"

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