24 July 2014 - Hoax calls divert resources

While most hoax calls received by the Trust result in resources being sent to a deserted scene, a hoax call this week had a more frightening impact.

NWAS received a 999 call from a ‘patient’ reporting that they had been attacked and stabbed. A police helicopter and ambulance with Advanced Paramedics were deployed to the reported scene of the crime in Morecambe. Whilst our call handler was dealing with the ‘distressed’ person on the phone, the ‘attacker’ returned and stabbed the ‘patient’, causing a great amount of upset to the call handler who thought she was listening to a murder – however, it was nothing more than an elaborate hoax.

Derek Cartwright, Director of Operations for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “Our emergency operational centres handle a relatively low number of ‘hoax’ calls compared to the number of calls for genuine incidents. However, hoax calls undoubtedly can put lives at risk by preventing genuinely sick people from getting the help they need.

“This particular call was extremely harrowing and while it might have been ‘funny’ to those making the call, it was an extremely traumatic experience for our staff member as well as a waste of resources.

“Anyone who thinks making hoax calls to the emergency services is acceptable should consider that it is a criminal offence and we can trace calls from unknown or blocked numbers. There have been occasions when individuals have been prosecuted and jailed, or received an ABSO, for continually making hoax calls to emergency services.”

A Cumbria police spokesperson said: “Cumbria Police and other emergency services deal with a vast amount of calls for service each day. The deployment of resources is carefully managed and anyone making malicious or hoax calls can put others at risk by detracting away from those who are in genuine need of the emergency services.

“Cumbria police will aim to take action against those who make hoax calls and waste the time of the emergency services.”