LEICESTERSHIRE, England -- A man dialled 999 to say he had been bitten by a snake, only for paramedics to discover he was high on drugs and had seen the creature on the television.
The incident was one example of more than 1,800 hoax or inappropriate calls a year dealt with by East Midlands Ambulance Service (Emas) in Leicestershire and Rutland.
Another caller wanted help to resuscitate a pigeon which appeared to having breathing difficulties. There have been other calls to patients who did not exist.
Since the start of June alone, there have been 273 hoax calls.
Service managers said the calls were putting patients' lives in danger.
Emas service delivery manager Michael Jones said: "An ambulance travelling to someone who it turns out does not need help is an ambulance that is potentially not available for someone who is in a real life-threatening condition.
"That person could be a loved one of the hoax caller.
"Hoax calls are malicious and can result in us making a wasted journey to help a patient who doesn't exist.
"The calls are not made by one age group alone.
"We have received calls from adults, teenagers and children who clearly don't understand the risk they are putting other people at by making this type of call."
The 1,874 hoax calls last year was slightly down on the 1,906 in the previous 12 months, but more than the 1,750 in the year before that.
Mr Jones said it was important for parents to teach their children about using the 999 service properly.
He said: "We regularly congratulate child callers who have helped to save a life by calling 999.
"In these cases, it is apparent the parents or guardians of those children have spent time talking to them about responsible use of emergency numbers. "It is also important to recognise the majority of people who call 999 do so because they believe it is the right service." Dr Mike Pepperman, chairman of the Emas working group for the health watchdogs Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland local involvement networks, said: "Hoax calls waste valuable time.
"A few seconds lost in someone being able to get through can be the difference between life and death.
"In the case of a cardiac arrest, you are often talking about a two to three-minute window of opportunity and the potential to make sure the patient recovers."
Dr Pepperman, who was an intensive care consultant at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said: "Emas has to deal with a considerable number of calls every day.
"Crews having to respond to hoax call has an impact on the times in which an ambulance responds to patients who genuinely need help."