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Broken toe nail and pizza orders among thousands of hoax ambulance calls

PUBLISHED: 06:28 08 January 2020

The number of hoax and inappropriate ambulance calls have fallen in the East of England. Picture: Denise Bradley

The number of hoax and inappropriate ambulance calls have fallen in the East of England. Picture: Denise Bradley

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People placing pizza orders and a woman who asked to be escorted home to breastfeed are among thousands of inappropriate and hoax ambulance calls made in the last three years.

New figures have been released, showing 42,000 hoax calls were made across the UK since 2016 - including more than 1,000 made to East of England call handlers.

The East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) was among the few ambulance services that saw a decline in calls in 2018/19, which fell 70pc from the year before.

In 2016/17 there were 588 hoax calls, falling to 531 in 2017/18 and 385 in 2018/19 according to figures obtained by the GMB union.

Examples of calls heard by call handlers include pizza orders, a broken toe nail and the woman who wanted an ambulance escort home to breastfeed because there was too much traffic.

Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: "Call handlers and emergency medical dispatchers do a hard job, under pressure and work to save lives every day.

"The last thing they need are tens of thousands of hoax calls making a tough job even tougher.

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"This is a matter of life and death - it's just not right for a minority to waste the time of those who are serving the wider public and working to keep people alive."

An EEAST spokesman said: "For general hoax calls a team leader and manager can take over a suspected hoax call and terminate it if it is established it is a hoax - and if necessary report it to the police for follow up.

"For patients who make regular calls unnecessarily, plans are been in place to support these calls being answered, triaged and logged."

When a hoax call is suspected, the call handler flags this to their team leader and duty manager for support and guidance.

The trust also works with GPs and other health partners to prevent repeat callers.

A trust spokesman said: "This has allowed a more appropriate management of these patients and a linked-up approach across the health care system.

"Ongoing work continues with the patient and their support network i.e. GPs/mental health teams to ensure the correct support is in place for them to prevent any unnecessary calls."

GMB said out of the figures, 2,000 calls were classed as "vexatious or abusive".

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