26 August 2015 - “My kitchen is a mess and I need your help to tidy it!” Says woman to 999 call handler

A North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) emergency call handler is urging the public to think before they dial 999 over the summer bank holiday after a woman asked paramedics to help tidy her kitchen.

Tony Newsham

Picture: Emergency Medical Dispatcher Tony Newsham at NWAS Emergency Control Centre in Broughton.

Other inappropriate cases revealed by NWAS included a man who called 999 because his toe nail had changed colour, a woman who called because she had a cotton bud stuck in her ear and a man who called because he had suffered a bite on his foot.

Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) Tony Newsham, who answers 999 calls for NWAS, is asking the public to think carefully before phoning 999 this weekend. Tony said: “A bank holiday is the perfect opportunity to spend time with your family and friends, but for the ambulance service it’s a holiday where we see a large increase in the number of calls to 999.

“We tend to see an increase in calls from people who don’t know where to seek alternative medical care when their GP practice is closed, with conditions such as sore throats and aches and pains. These are calls that should not be made to an emergency number and we would like the public to help keep our services free for patients who are seriously ill with life threatening conditions.

“People often think calling 999 will help them get seen quicker – but that isn’t the case. A well-stocked medicine cabinet, a visit to a pharmacist or a call to NHS 111 are often much better options for patients with conditions that aren’t serious.

“It’s vital our services are kept free for the most urgent calls in order for us to prioritise patients with life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, cardiac arrests, stokes and breathing problems.

“If it’s not an emergency then please think of how you can help yourself and others or, best still, avoid the injury or illness in the first place.”

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Tony’s top tips to stay safe throughout the bank holiday weekend:

• Drink lots of water – It is important to keep hydrated as you lose more fluid than you take in during hotter temperatures, this is also vital if you are doing any physical activity and when you are travelling long distances.

• Keep out of the sun – It is best to try to stay in the shade between the hours of 11am to 3pm, as this is when the sun is at its hottest. If you are going into the sun wear sunscreen – Apply a sun cream of at least factor 15 that includes UVA protection.

• Sprains and strains – Most sprains and strains can be cared for at home using PRICE therapy (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation).  Painkillers, such as paracetamol, can help and the affected body part will usually be back to normal within a few weeks.

• Look out for others – Keep a check on any elderly neighbours, young children and babies and those who have a heart or respiratory condition such as asthma.

• Coughs and colds – Colds normally last 7-14 days and are not helped by antibiotics - green discharge from the nose (snot/phlegm) does not indicate an infection. Keep your child’s throat lubricated and their body hydrated with regular drinks of water and encourage them to rest.

• Burns and scalds – Immediately place the area under cold running water to take the heat out of the skin. Don't do this for longer than 10 minutes, as babies and toddlers can get too cold. If there’s no running water, immerse the burn or scald in cold water or any other cool fluid, such as milk or a cold drink.

• Call NHS 111 – If you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation call 111 in the first instance for help.

During the last summer bank holiday, 999 calls to NWAS increased by 6 percent.