HANDLERS of 999 calls are getting ‘refresher training’ after ambulances attended the wrong address more than 500 times in the past five years in Somerset and the rest of the South-West.

The reasons for the errors include the wrong address being given, mistakes by call handlers and sat navs sending ambulances to the wrong place.

The South Western Ambulance NHS Trust, which fields around 500,000 calls a year, says the number of problems has dropped from 133 in 2009 to 94 last year and work is underway to improve its systems.

A total of 33 errors of the 94 last year were caused by callers giving incorrect information, while 28 were due to mistakes by the trust’s call handlers, five from problems with sat navs and 28 unexplained.

Trust director Neil le Chevalier said that 542 ambulances arriving at the wrong place over five years should be viewed in the context of around two million call outs during that period.

He added: “Taking a 999 call can be very distressing and it can sometimes be very difficult to get the address for our call handlers.

“We're introducing refresher training. We are using some of the occasions where possibly an address has been inaccurate as a learning basis for our staff.”

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust, based in Exeter, expanded last year to take on the Great Western Ambulance Trust covering Gloucestershire, Bristol and Wiltshire.