Appeal for non-emergency requests to be prosecuted as emerges ambulance called for broken finger nail

People who call for an ambulance for non-life-threatening incidents, such as getting scratched or cutting themselves shaving, should be prosecuted.

That is the view of Siptu’s health organiser, Paul Bell, after paramedics revealed some of the non-emergency calls to which they have responded.

One woman reported that she could not stop bleeding. When the ambulance crew arrived, they discovered “she was scratched, after her cat and dog were fighting and she broke it up”.

An ambulance was dispatched after a caller said there was a 14-year-old in labour. On arrival, the crew found the family dog was in labour.

Other 999 calls that asked for an ambulance include:

  • A woman in her 70s, said to be trapped in her kitchen. On arrival, the crew found she could not get her wellies off;
  • A man with sunburn, who was fully conscious and breathing;
  • A man whose new shoes, which were bought for Christmas, were too tight and were hurting his feet;
  • A man whose hand had got stuck in a mouse trap;
  • A first-time mother who needed her baby winded;
  • A crew dispatched to deal with a cardiac arrest found the patient was a dog;
  • A caller who could not sleep and thought their house was haunted;
  • A broken fingernail.

“I have had crews in peak time responding to what turns out to be a cut from shaving,” Mr Bell said. “I believe people who make such calls should be prosecuted.

“Some people think they will be treated first if they go to hospital in an ambulance. That is not true, because the triage system works [in emergency departments] whatever way you arrive at them.”

Non-emergency call-outs “stretch resources and then the ambulance is not available for somebody else”, he added

The National Ambulance Service, said: “These calls can put unnecessary additional demand on emergency services resources.

“More importantly, non life-threatening calls can be time-consuming and may delay a genuine caller receiving timely medical assistance.”

Siptu believes that, just as in the UK, paramedics should be able to make a judgement call and not have to bring the patient to hospital by ambulance.


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