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26 Jun 2022

Worrying amount of 'absolutely criminal' hoax calls to ambulance service

Worrying amount of 'absolutely criminal' hoax calls to ambulance service

Almost 1,400 bogus or hoax calls were made to the National Ambulance Service (NAS) last year.

Figures released from the NAS show the number of prank or bogus calls began to rise sharply in the second half of last year from just 76 in the month of January to 151 by year end in December. 

There were also higher rates of bogus or hoax calls in months normally associated with school holidays, including 152 in June and 153 in July. The August figure dropped back to 125.

The NAS said calls were categorised as a hoax where the caller terminated the conversation before providing sufficient detail to warrant sending an ambulance.

They also arose where the criteria for dispatching an ambulance were not met or in cases where a crew did respond but nothing was found.

The NAS said emergency call takers had expertise in sifting out bogus calls through set questions for verifying whether an ambulance was needed.

They said:“Other indications are the caller laughing (adult or child). The trained emergency call taker would escalate a suspected hoax call to the control supervisor who would assess, analyse and make a decision on the authenticity of the call,” it said.

The NAS said they had received more than 363,000 calls last year. Only a small fraction of these were hoax calls.

There were spikes in January, July, August, and December when at least 32,000 calls were made each month, or at least 1,000 per day, data shows.

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A spokesperson said: "Our paramedics need to attend to genuine emergencies and should not be tied up responding to malicious false alarms".

They said that while hoax and bogus calls only made up a small percentage of total calls received, they were dangerous.

"We treat every 112/999 call as urgent and cannot assume that any call is a prank. Calling out ambulances or the fire brigade ‘for a laugh’ is absolutely criminal and this kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated,” said the spokesperson.

"It’s a waste of precious time and resources and puts people's lives at risk. When services are tied up at a hoax call, it can mean that they may have been unable to get to another destination in the case of a real emergency," the spokesperson said.

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