A woman who called 999 with no medical need 740 times in three months has been told to pay £2,000 compensation to EMAS and banned from calling the emergency services for five years other than in a genuine emergency.
The frequent caller, whose actions cost the NHS £13,276, appeared at court earlier this month where she pleaded guilty to persistently making use of a public communications network to cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety.
The caller also rang EMAS 97 times on Christmas Day 2017. As a result, the woman has also been sentenced to a 12 month community order, 15 days of rehabilitation activity, and will receive mental health treatment.
Ian Brett, Emergency Operations Commander, was overseeing the control room on one occasion when the caller used three different phones to ring 68 times between midnight and 8am, which prevented three 999 call handlers from taking real emergency calls.
Ian said: “I was made aware of the caller as she was repeatedly pushing the redial button on two mobile phones and her landline. At one point, the caller placed her phones together so our 999 call handlers were talking to each other.
“This meant that three of the 14 999 call handlers were committed to answering this one regular caller rather than a member of the community needing emergency medical help.
“At this time in the morning fortunately we had enough staff on duty to handle the 999 calls without impacting other patients.
“However, if this was to occur later when the snow arrived and the demand increased there would have been a real threat to our ability to respond to patients in the community experiencing real medical emergencies.”
Deborah Powell, Frequent Caller Lead for EMAS, explained that all 740 inappropriate emergency calls took place in just three-and-a-half months between 29 November 2017 and 11 February 2018.
She said: “We will continue to prosecute those who misuse our service to ensure that the support is there for those who need it in a real medical emergency.
“By repeatedly making inappropriate calls to the 999 service during our busiest time of the year, this caller demonstrated flagrant disregard for others experiencing life threatening emergencies who genuinely need our help.
“We are pleased with the outcome of this case because it acknowledges the impact that frequent callers such as this person have on our vital service and helps to protect ourselves and other emergency services from future inappropriate calls.
“We would urge people again to make the right 999 call and only phone us in a life threatening emergency.”