Man who ‘needed a chat’ made 135 bogus ambulance calls

PUBLISHED: 15:58 04 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:58 04 September 2020

The ambulance control room in Hellesdon. Byline: Sonya Duncan

The ambulance control room in Hellesdon. Byline: Sonya Duncan


A man who “often gets lonely” needlessly called the ambulance and NHS 111 service 135 times during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

East of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANEast of England Ambulance Sevices Hospital Lane April 2020. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Stephen Sewell, 64, of Leman Road, Gorleston, pleaded guilty in Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court on September 4 to persistently making use of a public communication network to cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety.

He also admitted his consistent failure to comply with a community protection notice issued in November 2019 - where he was told only to call for genuine emergencies.

On five occasions between January 1 and April 24 this year, Mr Sewell failed to comply with the notice by refusing treatment and becoming verbally abusive to paramedics after he had called 111.

Between March 5 and April 21, he also called 111 on 96 occasions, and between March 5 and May 4 he called ambulance staff 39 times.

Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court. PHOTO: Google StreetviewGreat Yarmouth Magistrates' Court. PHOTO: Google Streetview

Sewell admitted all the charges.

Prosecutor Mark Johnson said that the “severity and timing” of Mr Sewell’s offences had caused “significant disruption” to NHS staff at a time of immense pressure on the service.

He said: “His persistent calls for issues which were not genuine emergencies encroached into the Covid-19 period.

“A frequent caller clinician has put together an estimate of what Mr Sewell’s behaviour has cost the East of England ambulance service between May 2019-May 2020, in which he made 187 calls resulting in avoidable hospital conveyance on ten separate occasions.

“This has cost the service £15,606.

“He made 40 calls over a period of nine days between April 19 and April 27 this year, which was particularly excessive. It was also at a time when the outbreak was coming to its peak, and the NHS was under the greatest strain I’ve ever seen in my adult lifetime.”

David Foulkes, mitigating, said that Mr Sewell often called the ambulance service “because he was lonely and just needed a chat”.

He said: “Mr Sewell does have a heart problem, but there are some underlying issues which the probation service can delve into to see whether we can help him put a stop to this kind of behaviour.”

Chair of the bench Jocelyn Abel said she wanted to postpone sentencing until she had “found out more about Mr Sewell”, but said she was ruling out a custodial sentence.

Magistrates requested a pre-sentence report be completed by probation services, with Mr Sewell due to return to the court on October 1.

Mr Sewell, who spoke only at the end, said: “I apologise, okay. I promise I’ll comply with everything you’ve asked.”

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