ALMOST a quarter of 999 calls made in Wales were not emergencies, it has been revealed - with one man calling the emergency services because a woman had stubbed her toe on a Christmas tree.

Another caller thought his hangover was bad enough that it warranted calling an ambulance, while a third wanted paramedics to help him wish his friends a happy Christmas.

The bizarre calls have been revealed by the Welsh Ambulance Service as part of its Be Wise Save Lives campaign, which is calling on people to use 999 properly. The winter period is traditionally the busiest time of year for the ambulance service, and the organisation has revealed, of the 470,601 calls it received last year, 116,674 - almost a quarter - were not serious or immediately life threatening.


Other inappropriate calls include a woman complaining about a stinging sensation after shaving her bikini line, another wanting an STD test, a man with toothache, and someone who wanted help to get into a locked church. In another, a group of children rang 999 to sing Christmas carols before hanging up.

The organisation has warned calling 999 when it is not an emergency may stop other genuine emergencies from getting through - potentially putting lives at risk.

The service's chief executive Jason Killens said: “Inappropriate calls to our emergency ambulance service are a problem year-round, but especially as we head into winter when people are sicker and we have adverse weather to contend with.

“Our ambulance service exists to help those whose life is in imminent danger and for those who are seriously ill or injured.

“Time spent by call handlers tied up with a stubbed toe could be time spent giving CPR instructions for someone in cardiac arrest, or arranging help for the victim of a road traffic collision.

“Blocking our precious resources with these types of calls could literally be a matter of life or death, and our request to the community is simple - help us help you when you need it most and think carefully before you dial 999.”

Trust director of operations Lee Brooks added: “Many of these calls are plain hoax calls, but a lot are from people who genuinely have no idea where else they can turn.

“We began creating our plans as early as March to ensure we are prepared as can be for the busy winter period, but we need the public to use us appropriately so we can deliver the best service possible during this busy time.

“The public should also prepare themselves ahead of the Christmas period; for example, if you rely on medicines, check to make sure these are stocked as the public holidays can limit options for some people.”

Rather than using 999 if you are unsure of whether it is an emergency or not, there are plenty of places you can go.

You can use the online symptom checker or call 111 for advice and information about where to go - if 111 isn't available in your area, then you can call 0845 46 47 but 111 is available in the Aneurin Bevan Trust area - aka Gwent.

You can also get advice from your pharmacist, optician and go to your GP or local minor injuries unit – at the minor injuries unit there is no need for an appointment.