The country’s emergency services have made a plea to the public only to use 999 in the event of a genuine emergency.
Unprecedented daily demand has meant that emergency operations control rooms around the country are experiencing New Year’s Eve-like call volumes daily.
For a month now, over 100,000 999 calls are being made daily, placing significant pressure on control rooms.
Around 90,000 999 calls would be made on a typical day, representing a 10% increase in usual capacity.
For many, this has meant extended waiting times for both the police and the emergency ambulance service.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Contact Management, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, said:
“We are consistently seeing demand on 999 as high as it would be on New Year’s Eve, and so we’re appealing for people to use the service responsibly.
“999 should only be called in a genuine emergency when you need immediate assistance and not simply because you cannot get through on non-emergency numbers. If you misuse the service, you risk those in genuine need of urgent help waiting longer to get through.
“The demands and pressures on policing are now back to pre Covid levels and with the warm weather and a summer of sport, that is only likely to increase so I would appeal to people to be responsible and look after themselves.
“Anyone with a genuine need for emergency assistance, where life or property is in immediate danger should always call 999, otherwise please get in touch with us either online at police.uk or by calling 101.”
Over the weekend, North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust highlighted the issue when they outlined some of the 999 calls which their control room staff have received.
This included 999 calls made for sunburn, an earbud stuck in someone’s nose, a request for information about the Covid vaccine, someone wanting to book a scan, someone’s hands burned after handling chilli’s, people calling 999 because they were frustrated that they could not get through to other services, Acrylic nail pulled fingernail off, Painful cold sore and not being able to get water out of the ear after a bath.
A spokesperson for the Trust added: ‘Every call our teams take for something that isn’t an emergency diverts our time away from someone in a life-threatening condition who called 999 to get help to save a life. We want to be there for you in an emergency, please use our services wisely.’
Darryl Keen, National Fire Chiefs Council’s Lead for Operational Communications, commented:
“Calls for assistance to fire and rescue services are currently in line with what we would expect and in the event of an incident, we will respond and provide the help you need.
“However, the demand placed on our other blue light colleagues impacts on the fire service’s ability to quickly reach them when a coordinated, multi-agency response is needed.
“We ask that people ensure they use the 999 service appropriately, ensuring it is only for emergency situations and where there is risk to life so all emergency services can continue to provide you with the fast response you need.”
Calls to the 999 service are answered first by BT operators and then passed to the emergency service the caller requests. Demand for the service has been increasing in recent months.
The average number of calls connected to police this month is 34,000 a day compared to 29,500 in the same period last year. Only around 20-25% of these calls will be deemed to require an immediate emergency response from police.
Recent unnecessary calls to police on 999 include from a man who was being followed home by a cat, a man asking to speak to Sting, the lead singer of The Police, about a broken vinyl and a woman asking when her next train would be.
The National Police Chiefs Council has also warned that abuse of the 999 systems can result in criminal action. A man has recently been charged for calling 999 49 times in the space of six hours.
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England & Wales, said:
‘The demand on policing is unrelenting.
‘We don’t have enough officers or staff and many of the ones we have are working extended shifts and having their rest days cancelled, they are knackered.
‘We should be declaring a critical incident like the NHS does’.
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