THE Scottish Ambulance Service spent more than 70 days dealing with hoax calls in the past eight years, according to new figures.

A freedom of information request from the Scottish Lib Dems shows 1,690 hours have been spent on malicious calls since 2013-14 and 2020-21.

Some 4,187 calls have been recorded by call operators as being "malicious" during that time.

The number of hoax calls and time wasted on them fell dramatically during the pandemic, with just 88 hours and 16 minutes spent on 162 calls.

This figure fell from a peak of 286 hours and 50 minutes on 671 calls in 2017-18, with six of the last eight years showing at least 200 hours spent on hoaxes.

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Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton called on the Scottish Government to stress to the public the risks of fake calls to the ambulance service.

"The people in our ambulance service are at the absolute forefront of saving lives," he said.

"The service deals with hundreds of thousands of calls every year but these figures show that a small number of malicious individuals are conspiring to make their jobs harder than they need to be.

"Every call handler tied up dealing with a malicious call is one who is unavailable to help save a life elsewhere.

"That’s especially important when an overburdened service is dealing with a surge in demand.

"Our ambulance staff are under huge strain. The Scottish Government needs to educate the public about the risk they are taking when they waste call handlers’ time and the ambulance service needs an immediate and transformational injection of resources and capacity to tackle the immense challenges it faces.

"That’s how we give new hope to the patients and staff of our health service."

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: "We strongly condemn hoax calls to our emergency services.

"These are not victimless pranks and they can potentially distract and divert vital resources and attention away from those who are in life-threatening situations.

"The Scottish Ambulance Service has been clear that inappropriate, malicious, or nuisance callers will be reported to the police, who will investigate and act accordingly.

"This is the right and proportionate procedure as the Ambulance Service also point out that in many cases the call is the result of a mental health issue rather than malice and the patient may still need help.

"In these cases the relevant agencies are advised so that appropriate care can be provided."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: "Anyone who calls 999 without a genuine need is potentially putting lives at risk by tying up valuable resources that could be needed to respond to a life-threatening call.

"Therefore, malicious and hoax callers will be reported to the police."