tomatoesImage source, Getty Images

Panicked patients dialled 999 after eating sandwiches with mouldy tomatoes in and suffering papercuts.

Another asked for a lift to A&E because they had an earring lodged in a lobe while one was worried their plaster cast was wet.

Of 470,653 calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service in the last 12 months nearly a quarter were non-essential.

The service reminded people they should not call 999 because of low quality sandwiches.

Chief executive Jason Killens said the ambulance service was there for the seriously ill or injured, or when there was an immediate threat to life, and many people were calling for non-urgent reasons due to “not knowing where to turn”.

“People with something stuck in their ear still have a clinical need, but calling 999 for that is ill-judged when there are so many other ways to access more appropriate help,” he said.

“Non-essential calls represent nearly a quarter of our total 999 calls, and time spent dealing with these could be time spent helping someone in a life or death situation.”


‘I’ve no money, can I have a lift to A&E?’

earringImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

A caller asked for a lift to A&E because she thought she’d lost an earring in a lobe

Caller: Basically, I had a piercing a few weeks ago in my ear. Everything’s been fine but last night I woke up and the piercing had gone. I can’t find the piercing and it feels like it might be in my ear drum.

Operator: Right, OK.

Caller: Normally I would go to A&E myself but I don’t actually have any money. A lift to A&E would be amazing.

‘There was a mouldy tomato in my sandwich and I feel sick’

mouldy tomatoesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Another dialled 999 after eating iffy tomatoes

Caller: My neighbour came here and she gave me a sandwich, cheese and tomato. Anyway, I feel quite sick now. I looked at the tomatoes and there’s mildew on them.

Operator: OK, is that why you’re requiring an ambulance?

‘Help! I have a paper cut!’

Caller: I cut my arm, my arm’s cut.

Operator: How did you do that?

Caller: I sliced it on a piece of paper.

Operator: When did this happen?

Caller: About half an hour ago.

Operator: Is there any serious bleeding?

Caller: No.

‘Basically, my plaster cast is wet’

wet plasterImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

A wet plaster cast worried one person

Caller: Oh, hi there. Basically, I’ve got my hand in a cast. It’s been in there for three weeks and I’ve got it wet.

Operator: OK.

Caller: It’s not an actual emergency, I just need to get to hospital.

‘Mum drank vinegar and has diarrhoea’

Operator: Tell me exactly what’s happened.

Caller: Basically, my mum drank apple vinegar but mixed it with water and lemon. Now she has diarrhoea.

‘What it is right, can I take my meds?’

medsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

A fourth patient thought the 999 call handler might be able to offer advice on their medication

Caller: What it is, right, I’ve got different medication and I don’t know whether I can take these or not now.

Operator: What’s your telephone number?

Caller: I don’t want an ambulance, I just don’t know if I can take my meds or not.

‘My plaster cast is damaged, do I need an ambulance?’

Caller: I was mucking about with my plaster cast and it’s coming apart. I don’t know whether to get a taxi or an ambulance.

Operator: From the information you’ve given, you require a more detailed assessment by a nurse. An ambulance will not be sent at this time.

Caller: Oh, you’re joking. Are you being serious?

Operator: We’re extremely busy at the moment.

Caller: I’ll get a taxi.


Winter is traditionally the ambulance service’s busiest period, but the service has said pressures had been made worse by Covid.

Operations director Lee Brooks said: “It’s easy to make fun of the people who call 999 foolishly, but actually, these people do have a legitimate clinical need.

Lee Brooks, director of operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service
Image caption,

“It is extraordinary to call on military support,” according to Lee Brooks, of the Welsh Ambulance Service

“They just don’t know where to turn for it.”

He urged people to find out about NHS services available in their area and to ensure they had a well stocked medicine cabinet.

“Think twice before you call 999,” he said.

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Source: BBC

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