Hoax callers could have cost West Midlands Ambulance Service more than £77,500 in just one year, it has been revealed.

According to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information Act, the ambulance service received 466 hoax calls in 2016/17 alone, limiting emergency crews' ability to respond to people in need of help.

According to the report, it costs £174 to send an ambulance out to someone and treat them at the scene, and more than £200 to transport them back to hospital.

Hoax callers are putting a strain on 999 handlers and emergency crews
Hoax callers are putting a strain on 999 handlers and emergency crews

Overall, under the 2016/17 figures, it could have cost the service more than £77,500 to respond to all the hoax calls they received, the figures reveal.

Hoax calls can be classified in several different ways, including:

  • Hoax/malicious call: where the emergency service has been called to an incident that does not exist.
  • False call: possibly a child playing with the telephone.
  • Genuine error: possibly where the number 9 has been repeatedly pressed incorrectly.
  • Silent calls: the caller does not speak but holds up the line.

West Midlands Ambulance Service received more than one million calls in 2016, and staff say pranksters are putting an unnecessary strain on the vital emergency service.

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A spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said: "All 999 calls are received in good faith, so to receive hoax calls is extremely frustrating for our control room and front-line ambulance staff.

"All they want to do is help patients in their hour of need. If our staff are tied up dealing with a hoax they are clearly not available to help a patient in genuine need.

"We would ask anyone who has made a hoax call how they would feel if that call had meant their loved one didn't receive the care they desperately needed and some harm had come to them – would they be able to live with the guilt? Please think carefully before dialling 999 – someone's life could depend on it."