By Victoria Leonard
March 8 2018
Ten addresses in Northern Ireland were responsible for a combined 1,000 emergency calls to the Ambulance Service last year.
The shocking findings reveal the extent to which crews are repeatedly summoned to the same address.
In 2017 the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) received 1,107 999 phone calls from just 10 addresses here.
One address was responsible for more than 200 calls.
UUP MLA Roy Beggs said the figures were “astonishing”.
“This would indicate to me that there are likely underlying problems and a need for support,” he said. “It would be a much better use of public funds if underlying issues are addressed.
“It’s likely that these calls are a cry for help, and the statutory agencies would be better working together to try and identify the cause of concern of the individuals. What would give me the greatest concern is if ambulances are not available for other emergencies.”
The shocking findings were disclosed after a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Telegraph.
They show that on average each of the addresses made 110 calls over the course of the year.
In total, the NIAS answered 216,741 phone calls between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, not including duplicate calls. The calls made by the 10 addresses account for 0.5% of the total number of calls made to the emergency service last year.
Significantly, the data also shows that the 10 homes which were most-visited by the NIAS called 999 on 661 occasions, leading to 356 transfers to hospital. In the most shocking case, one Belfast home made a total of 212 999 calls.
In response, the ambulance service made 73 visits to that address, resulting in 32 transfers to hospital.
The NIAS says that there is “no defined average cost of answering a 999 call or an ambulance response” and that “the costs of providing 999 ambulance cover in a specific geographical area are broadly fixed regardless of the number of responses”.
However, they revealed that the direct costs of a traditional double-crewed accident and emergency ambulance are approximately £70 per hour.
NIAS added that it does not have a classification of “nuisance” callers, so could not give a figure on how much money was wasted because of nuisance 999 calls.
However, they emphasised the true cost of such calls was the delays created for real emergencies.
They continued: “The costs that cannot be quantified in relation to calls that do not require an ambulance response are the inevitable delays caused to genuine ambulance emergencies when crews are responding to such calls.
“There are also the additional pressure and risks to ambulance staff and the public in responses under blue light conditions to such calls.”
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