Man, 60, arrested after repeatedly calling 999 to complain about the NHS

30 March 2020, 15:37

The man allegedly phoned the police department five times to complain about the NHS
The man allegedly phoned the police department five times to complain about the NHS. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

A 60-year-old man from Sunderland has been arrested following a string of repeated 999 calls made to complain about the NHS.

The man, who has not been named, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of malicious communication offences, according to Northumbria Police.

He is said to have called 999 five times during 24 hours over the weekend to complain about the NHS amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite being warned about misusing the emergency number.

According the force, the man is now being held in police custody and is assisting with enquiries.

For all the latest updates on coronavirus, follow our live blog

Chief Superintendent Neil Hutchison later warned that abusing the system with nuisance calls could lead to a criminal record.

He also thanked fellow frontline workers for their continued efforts in the fight against Covid-19.

READ MORE: Britain says thanks with outpouring of gifts for NHS workers and police

"First and foremost, I would like to pay tribute to the wonderful staff and volunteers in the NHS who are working incredibly hard to protect the communities we serve in these unprecedented times,” he said.

"The majority of people have responded positively to the advice we’ve given and have only used 999 in a genuine emergency and made in in good faith.

READ MORE: Long distance couples offer tips to relationships separated by lockdown

"However, there are some occasions when individuals abuse the 999 number and bombard us with nuisance calls.

"Especially at this time given the increased demand on all of us, the last thing we want is for people to have to wait on the phone to speak to one of our call handlers – but this type of behaviour has an inevitable impact on how quickly other emergency calls are answered.

READ MORE: Healthcare workers reveal facial sores after wearing protective gear for hours on end

"I would therefore like to reiterate that important message – only ring 999 in an emergency, and anyone who does abuse that service can expect to be dealt with robustly."

Northumbria Police said the number of people who contacted the department via online messaging had increased by 50% following new guidelines about thinking twice when reporting non-emergency situations via 101.

The number of calls to 101 also fell by 15% on average for the month.

READ MORE: Tributes flood in for NHS consultant Amged El-Hawrani who died from Covid-19

Mr Hutchinson added: "I would like to thank everyone wholeheartedly for your cooperation – your actions are helping to allow our call handlers to talk to those who need us most as quickly as possible.

"We are not exempt from the impact of Coronavirus on our workforce and some of our call handlers are unable to physically come in to work.

READ MORE: 'Unusual' last request to NHS doctor before coronavirus patient put on ventilator

"However, they are determined to do all they can to support our communities and while they can’t answer calls they can respond to online enquiries.

"I would therefore ask anyone who wishes to report a non-emergency, or offer information about a live investigation, to get in touch with us via our website. We really appreciate it."