Nearly 1,400 fake calls or pranks were made to the National Ambulance Service (NAS) last year.
Figures released by the NAS show that the number of prank or fake calls began to rise sharply in the second half of last year, rising from just 76 in January to 151 at the end of the year in december.
There were also higher rates of bogus or prank calls during the months normally associated with school holidays, including 152 in June and 153 in July. The August figure fell back to 125.
The NAS said calls were classified as a prank when the caller ended the conversation before providing enough details to warrant dispatching an ambulance.
They have also occurred when the criteria for dispatching an ambulance were not met or in cases where a team responded but nothing was found.
The NAS said emergency call takers had the expertise to screen out bogus calls through set questions to check if an ambulance was needed.
They said: “Other indications are the laughter of the caller (adult or child). The trained emergency call taker would forward a suspected prank call to the control supervisor who would assess, analyze and make a decision on the authenticity of the call,” he said.
The NAS said it received more than 363,000 calls last year. Only a small fraction of them were hoaxes.
There were peaks in January, July, August and December when at least 32,000 calls were made each month, or at least 1,000 a day, according to the data.
A spokesperson said: ‘Our paramedics should attend to genuine emergencies and should not be required to respond to malicious false alarms.’
They said that although pranks and fake calls made up only a small percentage of the total number of calls received, they were dangerous.
“We treat every 112/999 call as urgent and cannot assume a call is a prank call. Calling ambulances or the fire department ‘for a laugh’ is absolutely criminal and this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated,” said the spokesperson.
“It’s a waste of valuable time and resources and puts people’s lives at risk. When services are blocked by a fake call, it can mean they may not have been able to get to a alternate destination in the event of an actual emergency,” the spokesperson said.
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