More than 30,000 emergency ambulance calls a year in Wales are unnecessary
Toothache, sore throats, coughs and colds, just some of the reasons people have called out emergency ambulance in Wales during the last year.
More than 30,000 999 calls for an emergency ambulance in Wales during the last year have been for minor illness like
Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething warned that a growing number of unnecessary 999 calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service is diverting resources away from the most life-threatening incidents, putting lives at risk.
Over the last year, more than 31,000 non-urgent calls were made for a 999 emergency ambulance with only three of these resulting in a patient being admitted for hospital treatment.
Nearly half (14,478) of these calls did not require an emergency ambulance at all.
An inappropriate call often results in extended on-scene time for highly-skilled paramedics – sometimes for as long as two hours – potentially depriving other patients in the community of a timely life-saving intervention.
Every emergency ambulance mobilised costs the Welsh Ambulance Service an average of £238.
The Deputy Minister also revealed the number of alcohol-related admissions in Welsh hospitals equates to approximately 1,200 every week.
“Our A&E and ambulance service staff work incredibly hard day in day out to provide life-saving treatment to people right across Wales.
“The number of unnecessary calls the ambulance service receives ever year is completely unacceptable.
“People have a responsibility to use our emergency NHS services sensibly, and only call 999 for an emergency ambulance or attend a accident and emergency department when it is just that – a serious accident or a genuine emergency.
“If people do fall ill, then there is a range of options open to them to access the appropriate treatment they need – be that the local GP, the local community pharmacy, the practice nurse, or another healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist or optician.
“In short, calling 999 for minor illnesses could prevent a genuine life or death emergency call being put through.”
Richard Lee, Head of Clinical Services at the Welsh Ambulance Service, added:
“We don’t want to deter anyone from calling 999, but we want people to think twice before they do. Unfortunately, we still receive a significant number of inappropriate calls about trivial or long-term conditions that will not be helped by an ambulance response.
“If you go to hospital by ambulance you will not be seen any quicker. When people call an ambulance when one is not required it means our precious time is being taken away from someone who really does need our help.
“During peak periods, like Christmas, every non-essential call has the potential to delay a response to a serious emergency like a heart attack or stroke. We are asking the public to ‘Choose Well’ to ensure busy emergency services are available for those who need them most urgently.
“If you think you need medical attention, there are a host of alternatives to 999 you can consider; NHS Direct Wales, out-of-hour GP services and pharmacies are all available for healthcare and advice for minor illnesses and injuries. The GP out of hours service is open all over the forthcoming Bank Holiday periods.
“Please remember only to dial 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured.”