FIFTEEN nuisance callers were convicted for calls to the ambulance service covering Salisbury in 2017.

South Western Ambulance Service Trust (SWAST) revealed that 23 court convictions were made against frequent callers to the 999 ambulance control hubs last year, 15 of those in the trust’s north division, covering Salisbury.

SWAST’s frequent caller team identifies callers and follows a four-stage process to address the issue, which can lead to a court hearing where penalties range from criminal behavioural orders and fines to prison sentences.

A frequent caller is an adult who makes five or more emergency calls for individual episodes in a month, or 12 or more in three months. But the trust said there are “legitimate cases” where someone has a complex, ongoing medical condition, and that individual circumstances are taken into account.

SWAST had over 575,000 999 calls in April to September 2017, 44,000 from frequent callers, and there around 2,000 frequent callers in the region, most falling into vulnerable groups such as mental health patients, drug and alcohol users or social care cases.

It is estimated that sixty hours of clinicians' time are lost to frequent caller across SWAST every day. 

Dr Simon Scott-Hayward, medical director primary care at SWAST, said making nuisance 999 calls “puts other people’s lives at risk.”

A previous frequent caller, who was helped by the multi-agency team, but wants to remain anonymous, said “I have come to my senses as to how busy they [the ambulance service] are, I was calling unnecessarily due to anxiety and my health worries.” 

Another frequent caller said; “I was going round and round in a circle and I had had enough of going in and out of hospital with the same story. I haven’t had any alcohol since February and my life is different, much better, I can live again and enjoy myself.” 

“If they are not medically unwell people should seek help from someone else like the AA or GP.  It’s hard when you are scared and don’t know what to do.”