On 8 December 2001, an adult female called 999 to say her friend had just turned up at her house drunk. She asked if she could get an ambulance to take her home, as no taxis were available.
The London Ambulance Service receives an increasing number of similar 999 calls daily, while up to 40 per cent of ambulance journeys to Accident & Emergency are deemed non-urgent.
Last December, to raise public awareness of the alternative options available before dialling 999 and to build staff morale, the London Ambulance Service launched a campaign with the tag line 'Only one of these is a taxi service'.
Messages were delivered through extensive media relations, a staff magazine and lobbying of opinion-formers, including MPs.
Ongoing research and evaluation illustrated that take-up was significant.
Journalists understood the issue of inappropriate calls and communicated the options available to the public before calling an ambulance.
In launch week, the PR team secured editorial coverage on 39 separate radio and TV shows.
London's taxi drivers boosted the initiative using word of mouth and key political opinion formers were reached through Radio 4's Today programme.
Following the campaign, the volume of non-urgent 999 calls fell from 23 per cent in January 2001 to 21 per cent in January 2002 - an impressive achievement considering that 999 calls have increased by an average of almost seven per cent year-on-year since 1994.
The lobbying effort has led to a recent announcement by the Department of Health that it is committed to addressing the problem of inappropriate ambulance use.
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