19/06/2012

Health Minister Condemns 999 Hoaxers

Hoax calls to Northern Ireland's emergency services have cost an estimated £3.16m - that's almost £9,000 a day - over the last three years.

Helath Minister Edwin Poots said the figures showed hoaxes were a "massive drain" on taxpayers' money.

More than 26,000 hoax and possible hoax calls were made to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service between 2009 and 2012.

Firefighters were sent out to 2,578 non-existent fires in that time.

Mr Poots said: "Hoax calls to our emergency services are totally abhorrent. The staggering £3m cost each year has been completely wasted."

The minister said those responsible were putting people's lives at risk, wasting the health services' money and running the risk of criminal conviction.

He said: "To put this into context, £3million could have been spent on more than 212,000 hours of domiciliary care, over 75,000 treatments by a physiotherapist in the community, around 250 coronary artery bypass grafts or over 5,000 weeks in a nursing home for an elderly person."

"Let's be clear – hoax calls can cost lives," he continued. "No firefighter or ambulance service personnel can be in two places at once. If a crew is called out in response to a hoax call, that crew won't be around to attend a genuine emergency - a domestic fire, heart attack or serious road traffic collision."

A person convicted of making hoax 999 calls could be imprisoned or fined £5,000, the minister said.

(NE)

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