Six-fold increase in hoax ambulance calls over six years

HSE says improvements in record-keeping may have contributed to 560% rise

There has been a six-fold increase in hoax ambulance calls over the past six years, Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony has said. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

There has been a six-fold increase in hoax ambulance calls over the past six years, Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony has said. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Thu, Aug 8, 2013, 17:26

There has been a six-fold increase in hoax ambulance calls over the past six years, Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony has said.

The Mayo deputy received information from the Health Service Executive (HSE) showing the increase in hoax calls recorded from 655 in 2007 to 4,329 last year.

He described the 560 per cent increase as “astronomical” and said it showed the “time wasting being experienced” by emergency services.

However improvements in the way records are kept on hoax calls may have contribute to this increase.

In a statement the HSE said reporting of hoax calls has increased in recent years with improved systems.

Before 2010 a paper-based and manual system recorded hoax calls in each local office rather than the computer currently system used, the executive said.

The HSE urged the public to refrain from making hoax calls to emergency services because it puts “unnecessary additional demand on emergency services”.

Mr O’Mahony called for “proper penalties “ to be put in place to ensure people who make such calls are “held to account and are “named and shamed”.

The parliamentary question answered by the head of the National Ambulance Service Martin Dunne shows that the biggest increase was in 2011 when calls rose by over 300 per cent per cent from 2010. Last year the hoax calls fell by almost 9 per cent to 4329.

In some instances people hang up once they are asked for further details but in others they are dispatched to “unnecessarily” to attend “fabricated” crises, Mr O’Mahony said.

Data relating to the costs was not widely available and would take “significant costs “ to compile, Mr Dunne said.