Ambulance dispatchers being plagued by reckless hoax calls

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Ambulance dispatchers who send out blue-light crews to Courier Country are being plagued by reckless hoax calls.

New figures have shown more than 2,000 malicious calls have been made to the Scottish Ambulance Service’s East control room from 2014 to date.

A total of 7,411 were recorded across Scotland since 2014, including malicious calls about serious medical emergencies including pregnancies, stabbings and overdoses.

That equates to an average of four per day.

In the South Queensferry nerve centre, 999 operators scramble medics to emergencies from Angus and the Mearns in the north to Lothian and Borders in the south.

Angus MP Kirstene Hair warned that this year’s figure is likely to go up following the traditionally busy festive period.

The Scottish Conservative, who obtained the data through a Freedom of Information request, has called for tougher action to be taken on prank callers.

She said: “More than four times every day, ambulance vehicles are compelled to go to jobs under blue lights, only to find out it was all a prank.

“I can only imagine the frustration of call handlers and paramedics who just want to be where it counts the most.

“At times of extra pressure, such as the run up to Christmas, these figures demonstrate the stark reality for people in Angus.

“For example, a hoax call in Perthshire could make all the difference to response times in my constituency of Angus and several other counties.

“The individuals responsible for reducing the resource available to attend emergency responses must never forget that their prank call could lead to the difference between life or death on another call.

“The Scottish Government need to get much tougher on those who partake in these prank 999 calls, because harsh penalties are the only deterrent.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Anyone who calls 999 without a genuine need is potentially putting lives at risk by tying up valuable resources that could be needed for a life-threatening call.

“When appropriate, malicious or nuisance callers are reported to the police.

“However, in many cases, the call is a result of a social issue rather than malice and the patient may still need assistance.

“In these cases, the relevant agencies are advised so appropriate care can be provided.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We condemn hoax calls to our emergency services – these are not victimless pranks and they can potentially distract vital resources and attention away from those who are in life-threatening situations.

“The Scottish Ambulance Service has been clear that when appropriate, malicious or nuisance callers are reported to the police who will investigate and act accordingly.

“This is the right and proportionate procedure as the Ambulance Service also point out that in many cases the call is the result of a mental health issue, rather than malice and the patient may still need help.

“In these cases the relevant agencies are advised so that appropriate care can be provided.”