A TIME-WASTER made more than a thousand nuisance calls to an NHS hotline to "indulge" his foot fetish.

Richard William Cove often impersonated an elderly woman during the calls, which cost the taxpayer £21,869.21.

While pretending to be an OAP, he would talk about his feet before encouraging the call handler to do the same.

The 45-year-old admitted making time-wasting calls to the NHS 111 advice line for more than two years.

Police eventually tracked him down and arrested him at his home in Boundary Road, Heene, Worthing.

PC David Quayle said: "He admitted making all the calls, and that they were all for his own enjoyment and personal benefit.

"He said he had a sexual foot fetish which he indulged during most of the calls."

Cove abused NHS 111, a free telephone and online service for the public to get advice on non-emergency medical situations, making 1,263 calls between April 2019 and April 2021.

The Argus: Worthing Magistrates Court.Worthing Magistrates Court.

He provided false personal details and medical ailments during his calls to the hotline, which is provided in Sussex by the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Call handlers are supported by a variety of clinicians and Cove's fake ailments triggered follow ups from medical professionals.

Clinicians made return phone calls to the numbers he had provided and in some cases ambulances were even dispatched.

He provided one of a small number of addresses during the calls - with a member of the public complaining he kept being contacted by the NHS despite never using the 111 service.

Eventually police identified his number and arrested him at his home where he had been making calls on his landline.

He appeared at Worthing Magistrates' Court today where he admitted one charge of making malicious communications.

David Davis, South East Coast Ambulance Service's head of integrated governance, said: "The impact of this individual's actions should not be underestimated.

The Argus: The air ambulance landed in Broadwater, Worthing

"Just one malicious and false call puts lives at risk by diverting our attention and resources away from people in genuine need of our help.

"The nature of the calls have also caused unnecessary distress to our staff who are working tirelessly to get people the help they require.

"We welcome today's conviction and the work of everyone involved in ensuring Cove is held responsible for his actions."

Cove will return before magistrates for sentencing on September 13.

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