Ambulance service attending five prank calls a day
THE Ambulance Service is attending an average of five hoax calls every single day costing the health service more than a quarter of a million pounds a year.
New figures reveal that over three years nuisance call-outs have cost the health service £830,700.
The total number of hoax calls made between 2012 and last year topped 13,000 with the service responding with call-outs to 5,538 of them.
The Ambulance Service estimates it costs £150 to respond to each prank call and said it "also incurs costs in raising awareness and educating the community on the implications of hoax calls."
In separate figures, also disclosed by the Health Minister Simon Hamilton, the Fire Service responded to 1,454 hoax calls, out of a total of more than 5,000, between 2012 and 2015.
The Fire Service said it does not "routinely collect and collate the costs of responding to individual types of incidents, as the costs are variable."
The figures were released in response to an Assembly question from Fermanagh and South Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan, who said they "present a very worrying picture."
He said: "Not only has significant money been wasted through these calls, but urgently needed resources have been directed to other areas at a time when a real emergency may have been happening somewhere else.
"There needs to be action taken to reduce the number of such calls and this must begin with an education programme in our schools about the impact that hoax calls can have as well as clamping down on those making nuisance and hoax calls to the emergency services," added Mr Flanagan.
The latest figures come as the Fire Service called on young people to "act as ambassadors...by educating their friends about the serious consequences of deliberately starting fires, attacking firefighters or making hoax calls."
The Fire Service said that in a two week period last Easter, its crews dealt with 395 deliberate fires and were attacked seven times, while call handles received 68 hoax calls.
Kevin O'Neill, Group Commander, said: "While we deal with the issues throughout the year we do find that over a school holiday period, such as Easter, there are unfortunately a small minority of people who continue to put an extra strain on our resources by engaging in such anti-social behaviour.
"Making hoax calls and diverting resources away from a potential real emergency is very short sighted because it could be someone from your family or one of your friends who need the help of firefighters in a real emergency. "