The new 111 non-emergency advice line has been subjected to a litany of 'time-wasting' emergency calls including a heart attack, a stroke and a road traffic accident.
'I cannot believe that people would be so selfish,' said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, 'this line should only be used for genuine non-emergencies, but some sick minded individuals persist in ringing up to report serious life threatening situations.'
Police have already been asked to intervene following a number of calls including one man who rang up to say that he was suffering a cardiac arrest. 'This man should be thoroughly ashamed of himself,' said Mr Lansley, 'His heart attack could be blocking a much less important call from someone with a grazed knee or a bit of a headache.'
Staff at the advice line have been reportedly ‘very upset’ by the gruesome and shocking nature of some of the calls.
‘It’s awful,’ said operator Kirsty Muldoon, ‘I expected to deal with people with bunions or a touch of lumbago but my first call came from a woman at the scene of a 17 car pile-up on the M62. We have to take each call seriously in case it is a genuine non-emergency, but it became increasingly clear, as she described the bloody carnage before her, that she was wasting my time. In the end I gave her the details of a 24-hour chemist and hung up.’
Recordings of some of the most outrageous calls have now been released to the media in an attempt to ‘name and shame’ the culprits. One call involved a barely comprehensible pensioner who claimed to have fallen over after suffering a stroke. ‘The 111 operators should not have to put up with this kind of thing,’ said a furious Mr Lansley, ‘when we track this person down they will have an awful lot of explaining to do.’
Police are understood to have already visited the homes of a number of these ‘bogus callers’ although so far nobody has bothered to answer the door.
Patients say that they are becoming increasingly confused about which telephone line to call. ‘I recently suffered a brain haemorrhage,’ said one, ‘but then I couldn't decide whether to call 999, 111 or NHS Direct. Finally, I gave up trying to choose and rang for a pizza instead.’