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Help! Is that 999? My new boots are too tight.

Byline: By Craig Thompson

Armpit-biting spiders and lost keys are just some of the bizarre 999 calls made to paramedics in the North East.

Bosses at the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) say they have dealt with a string of inappropriate calls from people requesting an ambulance.

They include a woman who claimed she had been bitten in the armpit by a house spider, someone who wanted help changing a plug and a caller who wanted her heating fixed.

On one occasion, a man even called to say his new boots were proving too tight for his feet.

It comes as the Department of Health revealed a host of strange incidents hidden in the accident and emergency statistics.

A staggering 451 people across the UK were stung by hornets, 46 fell prey to venomous snakes and lizards, while 24 were bitten by rats and 15 injured after coming into contact with marine mammals.

Two people were struck down by centipedes, although the most common predator which left people in hospital was man's so-called best friend ( the dog.

The Chronicle also exposed loner Alan Bruce, from Birtley, as a persistent menace behind a string of inappropriate 999 calls.

The 54-year-old, who is waiting to be sentenced, admitted being a public nuisance by persistently using the emergency services number.

The calls cost the ambulance service more than pounds 8,000.

Paul Liversidge, director of Accident and Emergency for NEAS, said: "We certainly don't want to deter anyone from calling 999 for genuine, life-threatening situations, we just want the public to think before calling an ambulance.

"We receive calls which are clearly not appropriate for us such as cut fingers, dog bites and blisters on feet.

"These cases need some form of help but not an ambulance with fully-trained paramedics. These crews could be helping someone with a life-threatening illness."

According to the Department of Health, acts of nature have also played their part in landing people in hospital, with 54 people being struck by lightning.

The cost of accidents to the National Health Service is understood to be about pounds 1bn every year.

A trip or fall was one of the major accident causes during the past 12 months, with 24,475 falls from stairs and steps, 12,042 from a bed and 4,533 from ice skates, roller skates, skis or skateboards.

Health bosses say calling 999 for an ambulance will not get people to the top of the A&E queue. All patients are seen on the basis of medical need.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 31, 2005
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