The caller asked the East of England Ambulance Service requesting that they “attend to someone hurt in a hit-and-run” in Epping Forest, in Essex. Two ambulances were hastily despatched to the scene before turning back when the time-waster admitted that the unfortunate victim was a squirrel.

The case was among 1248 hoax calls made to the service over the last two years. Crews attended almost half, believing them to be genuine emergencies. One prankster blocked the lines by calling to say: ”I’ve dropped my burger and it is bleeding.” A woman dialled 999 to report: “I’ve eaten too much takeaway food,” and another wanted ambulance crews to attend to her sick dog.

Another woman dialled 999 to report that she’d locked herself out of the house on a shopping expedition, while a hard-up gent tried to get an ambulance to taxi him to a hospital appointment because: “I don’t get paid until tomorrow.”

One worried man rang to announce that: “My feet hurt after wearing too small shoes”, and another said: “I have been dieting and feel lethargic.”

The ambulance trust – which receives around 2500 calls a day – detailed the bogus cases as part of its Right Call campaign, which urges people to use 999 wisely.

Gary Morgan, head of emergency operations centres, warned that daft calls could cost lives by sending medical staff on wild goose chases. “We’re an emergency service and our front-line staff are trained to save lives,” he said. “However, sadly, some of the calls we receive are not even medical-related and we will refer hoax calls to the police.”