Two-thirds call 999 inappropriately

Almost two-thirds of UK adults are wasting valuable emergency services resources by dialling 999 in non-urgent situations, according to research.

Photograph: istockphoto
Photograph: istockphoto

The YouGov study found that confusion is rife over situations that warrant 999 calls, with a quarter of adults admitting they would dial emergency services to report graffiti, vandalism and other deliberate damage to property and 19% insisting they would call about a stolen bicycle.

  • 57% either did not know their local police force helpline number or were unaware that such services existed.
  • 85% had no knowledge of the non-emergency 101 number which started to be piloted in 2006.
  • 46% would call their GP if they required non-urgent help, 36% would contact NHS Direct and 1% would dial 999.
  • 67% felt that a single medical care number that directs them to the most appropriate health resource would be useful, an initiative the Healthcare Commission called for in 2008.

2,081 adults took part in the survey.

From the five pilot areas that started 101 in 2006, now only Cardiff, Hampshire and the Isle Of Wight, and Sheffield are continuing with the number. A number of London boroughs have introduced limited 101 services that don't match the scope of the original 101 proposal.

  • Why do so many people call 999 inappropriately?

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