A freedom of information request submitted to the fourteen of the UK’s ambulance trusts has revealed that just 5 patients made 8,303 emergency calls in just 12 months. The worst case involved one patient phoning 3,594 times in just 12 months, which is almost ten times a day. The patient involved had made all the calls to a London ambulance service.
Other services that received an incredibly high number of calls from single patients were East Midlands Ambulance service, which was called 1,244 times by a single patient, and South West Ambulance service, which one person had called 1,044 times.
Five patients made 8,303 emergency calls in a year https://t.co/fsq3H3661g— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) 7 March 2018
Most of the cases involved chronic pain, mental health, and alcohol or drug dependence, according to an NHS spokesperson. Meanwhile Vicki Nash, a representative of MIND, a mental health charity, has told reporters that the figures tell of how the NHS is failing these patients, given that they clearly were not getting the medical treatment they needed.
“It's not meeting the needs of that individual, which is why they are repeatedly calling,” she said.
Frequent callers are classified as people who phone the emergency services more than five times a month, or more than 12 times in three months. It is estimated they cost the NHS £19 million a year, and Paul Jeffries, a representative for South Central Ambulance Service, says they account for around 10% of all calls to the ambulance service.
“If the ambulance, or the response vehicle, is being deployed to that patient who we know is a frequent caller, it means that a resource might not be available for a potential cardiac arrest,” he said.
We were shocked at these figures and while we understand that sometimes people do need emergency help, this does appear to be a real misuse of already limited resources. Please RT if you agree.— NHS Million (@NHSMillion) 7 March 2018
BBC News - Five patients made 8,303 emergency calls in a year https://t.co/W0IiVjShkR
Another representative for the West Midlands Service also discussed how the burden of frequent callers was “huge” and had genuinely problematic consequences.
“It's not just the financial cost,” he said. “It is the effective removal of ambulances for people who really need them that is the greatest concern.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Department of Health published a statement:
“NHS 999 call handlers do a challenging job helping callers seeking assistance in an emergency, and we expect the public to support them in their vital role by only calling 999 if necessary.”