Malicious hoax calls to NI Ambulance Service "putting lives at risk"

More than 9,300 potential hoax calls were made to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) over two years, with the cost of dispatching ambulances to deal with these incidents estimated at nearly £200,000.

The ambulance service and Department of Health (DoH) have both warned that hoax calls can endanger people’s lives.

Statistics, which were released to Detail Data under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, show one instance on May 16th 2016 when a crew dispatched from Whiteabbey Ambulance Station spent almost 10 hours dealing with a potential hoax, only to find no case at the scene.

The data shows another occasion on December 20th 2015 when five ambulances were dispatched on a call, which was initially believed to relate to either an assault or a sexual assault, and the crews found nobody to treat.

NIAS Director of Operations, Brian McNeill, stated that hoax calls increase ambulance waiting times for those genuinely in need and are: “Potentially life threatening.”

The Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke, Declan Cunnane, told Detail Data: “When someone has a stroke or heart attack, time is of the essence. Any delay in treatment can have a serious impact on how well the person recovers, if indeed they do. We would ask the hoaxers to think how they would feel if it were their loved one who was ill.”

There were over 210,000 emergency calls made to the NIAS in 2016/17, almost 10,000 more than were received in 2015/16 and over 20,000 more than in 2014/15.

Of this, a DoH spokesperson said: “At this time of ever increasing demand, malicious hoax calls are putting lives at risk, wasting critical resources and valuable time for the front line and control staff that have to investigate these calls.”

The FOI request sent by Detail Data asked for statistics relating to every hoax call recorded by the NIAS between 1st August 2015 and 31st July 2017. The ambulance service provided details on 9,319 calls which they had categorised as potential hoaxes during this time.

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To view the data behind the story click here

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