Ingrown toenail and beanbag ‘body’ among inappropriate 999 calls made


An ingrown toenail and a fear of catching a sexually transmitted disease are just some of the inappropriate emergency calls made to an ambulance service.

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust warned that misuse of its 999 service is putting people's lives at risk.

It has revealed a selection of inappropriate calls made recently to its emergency control room to show examples of the wrong reasons people have called 999.

A woman reported finding a motionless body that turned out to be an abandoned beanbag.

She spotted what she thought was a person curled up in a sleeping bag beside a bin but declined to verify what it was due to social distancing concerns.

The woman then left the scene and dialled the emergency number, saying she was "concerned for their welfare".

A paramedic was sent to the incident, only to discover the discarded cushion instead of a patient on the street.

A man also called for an ambulance because he was worried he had caught a sexually transmitted infection from a kissing a woman.

Other examples were a man dialling 999 because he wanted an ingrown toenail bandaged, a man complaining his central heating was not working and he was cold, and another caller was concerned a woman would overheat because she could not take her coat off.

The trust said hundreds of 999 calls are made every day involving patients who do not have serious or life-threatening conditions.

It dealt with 19,108 incidents last week – an increase of around 200 incidents a day compared with normal, and is expecting demand to remain high throughout the next few weeks.

"Our 999 service should only be used when someone is seriously injured or ill, and their life is at risk," a spokeswoman said.

"Inappropriate calls are a waste of our time, put additional pressure on our limited resources, and may mean we cannot reach those who are most in need of our help.

"Please 'Make the right call' this winter. If you someone is unconscious, not breathing, or has serious bleeding, 999 is the right number to call.

"But if you call for an ambulance when you don't really need one, you are misusing the 999 service and may well be delaying our emergency care to others."