Frequent callers taking up 200 hours a day of ambulance time – Bridport and Lyme Regis News
Frequent callers to 999 are taking up more than 200 hours a day of the emergency services’ vital time, it has been revealed.
Paramedics at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) are reminding people to only call 999 in an emergency and to use other more appropriate services for less urgent conditions.
It is estimated that one in ten calls into the ambulance service are from ‘frequent callers’ taking up more than 200 hours a day of vital emergency team’s time and putting a huge strain on the Trust.
Across the South West over the past year there have been 15 court convictions against frequent callers who have abused the system calling 999 ambulance control.
One was a court order after a woman from Devon made 129 calls in a three month period to emergency services when none of the calls were to life threatening emergencies.
Penalties range from Criminal Behavioural Orders, Community Orders, Fines, Court Injunctions and Custodial Sentences.
Not everyone defined as a frequent caller is ‘abusing’ the system. There are legitimate cases where someone may be at the end of their life or have a complex, ongoing medical condition meaning that frequent access to emergency care is required.
The circumstances surrounding each ‘frequent caller’ are reviewed to ensure support can be put in place to prevent the regular calls.
SWASFT has a dedicated team that works with patients and other health care services to manage this strain on the service. The team follows a four-stage process that can lead to a court hearing.
Paramedic Jonathan Hammond-Williams, the Frequent Caller Lead, said: “The Trust takes the issue of frequent callers very seriously. Those who are not in genuine need can use precious resources that should be allocated to those who are in a life-threatening condition.
“Callers can be found guilty of abusing the system for repeated inappropriate calls to 999 services. We seek prosecutions of people found to be abusing the system because it does put lives at risk.”
One previous frequent caller, who was helped by the multi-agency team, but wants to remain anonymous, said “I have come to my senses as to how busy they [the ambulance service] are, I was calling unnecessarily due to anxiety and my health worries.”
There are around 2,000 active frequent callers in the ambulance service across the south west. Most of them fall into the more vulnerable groups, such as mental health, dementia, drug and alcohol or social care.
SWASFT is reminding people to only call 999 in an emergency and urging them to ‘choose well’
Use the right service
As reported, Dorset’s NHS services, particularly emergency departments (A&E), are currently facing increased pressure and there is more strain at weekends.
The NHS in Dorset is reminding people to use the right service for their needs. This can help to free up emergency services for people who really need them, and could mean you get the right care more quickly.
Services range from more than 150 pharmacies across the county (for help with colds, coughs and headaches, etc) to minor injuries units and the urgent treatment centre in Weymouth for sprains, strains and other non-life threatening conditions.
Your local GP practice may also be able to offer you an out-of-hours appointment, which can be booked directly or through NHS 111, and at a time and place that works for you.
You can also call NHS 111 if you are not sure where to go, or if you need advice – or visit the StayWell Dorset website for more information.