HOAX calls to the ambulance service wasted more than 1700 hours of staff time in the past eight years, new figures show.

Between January 2014 and the end of September 2022, a total of 1710 hours of resource time were spent dealing with malicious calls.

The data was released by the Scottish Ambulance Service to the Liberal Democrats in a freedom of information request.

During the year to September 30, just over 133 hours were spent on malicious calls.

The Scottish Government said inappropriate, malicious or nuisance callers will be reported to the police, while an additional £45 million has been allocated to the ambulance service over the next year.

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A spokesman said: “We strongly condemn hoax or malicious 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.

“Our continued increased investment has seen a record number of additional staff join the Scottish Ambulance Service in 2021/22, with further recruitment also under way.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said people need to be educated on the impact of wasting a handler's time.

He said: “Every call handler tied up dealing with a malicious call is one who is unavailable to help save a life elsewhere.

“The service deals with hundreds of thousands 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. It has wasted 1710 hours of their time.

“I fear this winter will be the hardest winter the NHS and its staff have ever known.

“The Scottish Government needs to educate the public about the consequences of wasting call handlers’ time.

“They must also give the ambulance service an immediate injection of resources and capacity to tackle the long winter ahead.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson 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.”