EMERGENCY services have warned that lives are being put at risk following a hoax phone call which saw an ambulance sent out needlessly at the weekend.

Paramedics were called out to Castle Park in Whitehaven at around 6.30pm on Saturday and spent around 15 minutes searching the area before they were made aware that their help wasn’t needed.

It is believed the call-out was the result of a prank phone call made by teenagers.

Now the ambulance service has warned of the “extremely serious consequences” such calls may have and have stressed that those responsible are putting lives at risk by delaying emergency workers responding to patients who are critically ill or injured.

A spokesman for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “Making a 999 call for anything that isn’t a life-threatening or serious emergency simply puts lives at risk by taking up valuable time and resources.

“Our emergency operations centres handle around 4,000 emergency calls every day and only a relatively low number are hoax calls compared to the number of calls for real incidents.

“However, any call that is not a medical emergency can prevent or delay ambulance crews getting to the genuinely sick people who are in the most need for urgent help.

“What may seem like a laugh and a joke can have extremely serious consequences, it’s really important to respect the 999 service and only use it when really needed.”

Chief Inspector Gaynor Wardle, of Cumbria Police said: “Misuse of the public emergency telephone system through hoax, malicious or nuisance calls is an extremely serious matter.

“Such actions are irresponsible and in the worst cases can put the lives of members of the public at risk. In an emergency, seconds count. Abusing the 999 system could mean that resources are dispatched to incidents when in fact they are needed elsewhere.”

It is estimated that an ambulance call-out costs around £250.

Charles Maudling, who represents Whitehaven Central on Copeland Council, has slammed the time-wasters, branding their actions “disgusting”.

He said: “It seems funny to them to do that at their age, but in emergency services, time is vital. Someone could be fighting for their life and every second counts.

“To waste these emergency professionals’ time is disgusting. Imagine someone they knew had waited for their help and it was too late. How would they feel? I think they should realise how serious the situation is, even more so in our vast rural area.”

Graham Roberts, who represents the Harras Ward on Whitehaven Town Council, also blasted the “selfish” pranksters.

“I think it’s absolutely abominable. Somebody could have been critically ill and waiting for an ambulance. It is unacceptable behaviour. Ambulance resources are so precious now. It’s a selfish trick to do. It’s mindless. They should hang their heads in shame. It’s absolutely unacceptable wanting to do a trick like that when resources are tight.

“Somebody for instance in the terminal stages of their life, may need moving to hospital, having to wait for an ambulance, or a lady in labour. It’s just not on.

“I think it’s the most unfunny thing I have ever heard. They should be made to pay for it, or their parents should. I think it’s absolutely despicable.”