THE number of Wigan emergency ambulance calls which are abandoned mid-conversation has shot up over the last year, prompting fears of an upsurge in prank diallers.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that last year there were 122 incidents where a member of the public made a 999 call to the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) about a supposed incident in the borough, but then hung up and the control centre was unable to get back to them.
As a result the log was classed as “abandoned” and no ambulance was sent out.
This figure had soared from just three in 2010 and none in 2009.
So far this year, 45 abandoned calls were made and ambulance chiefs warned today that malicious calls can put lives in danger for needlessly diverting paramedics away from real emergencies.
A spokesman for NWAS was unable to determine why the number of abandoned incidents had suddenly shot up, but suggested it was as a result of better recording systems.
The abandoned dial could also be associated with hoax calls, as the person phoning could be deliberately attempting to supply wrong information and when questioned by control centre staff, changed their minds.
The number of official malicious calls - where an ambulance was not dispatched - had fallen from 154 in 2009 to 135 in 2010, but then rose again last year to 153.
There have been 74 prank dials to date in 2012,
Overall, the number of logs made by the ambulance service has risen from 30,956 in 2009, to 41,959 last year,
So far this year 28,335 calls have been made.
A spokesman for the NWAS said: “Emergency 999 calls for anything other than a genuine reason can undoubtedly put lives at risk and can take up valuable time and resources for not only ourselves but also our emergency service colleagues.
“We are constantly striving to provide the best possible service to the people of the North West and mindless acts such as these prevent staff from carrying their jobs out to the best of their ability.
“The figures released not only represent malicious hoax calls but also include some incidents which ultimately did not require an ambulance.
“Our emergency control centres handle a low number of hoax calls compared with the number of calls for genuine incidents.
“However, these calls can put lives at risk by preventing genuinely sick people from getting through to us and by wasting valuable resources at such ‘incidents’ when they could be elsewhere, helping to save lives.
“Any member of the public who thinks making prank calls to the emergency services is acceptable, should consider that it is actually a criminal offence and we can trace calls coming from unknown or blocked numbers.
“There have been occasions when individuals have been prosecuted and jailed, or received an ABSO, for continually making hoax calls to emergency services.”