Calling 999 for help in an emergency
999 is the telephone number you should call when you need emergency medical assistance following a serious accident, illness or injury - for example, in the event of traumatic blood loss, chest pain or loss of consciousness.
You should not call 999 if the situation is not an emergency. For general health enquiries you should always contact your local GP practice, out-of-hours service, Walk-in Centre or pharmacist in the first instance. Alternatively you can contact NHS Direct at any time on 0845 46 47.
If in doubt, call 999 and allow us to identify the right response to your needs.
What happens when you call 999?
1. Your call: When you call 999 and ask for an ambulance, you will be immediately connected to our highly trained ambulance control centre team. They will ask you for your location, the telephone number you are calling from and details of the main problem.
2. Arranging help: While you are talking to our control team, appropriate help has already started to be arranged by our team.
3. Patient condition: Our team may need to ask some additional questions about the patient such as:
- The patient’s age, gender and medical history
- Whether the patient is breathing, conscious,
bleeding seriously or has chest pains
- The type of injury and how it was sustained.
Asking these questions will not delay our response but does help us to offer advice if needed and also to ensure that we provide the most appropriate service.
4. Life-threatening situations: If the patient’s condition is life-threatening, our technology means that we can instantly pass the information to the nearest available ambulance vehicle so that they can get to the patient as quickly as possible.
5. Our response: Where appropriate an ambulance will be dispatched. In many cases we will send a fast response car or a community first responder, who can get to the scene more quickly than a conventional ambulance and start to provide care immediately.
6. Ongoing care: Our control team will offer you advice on how to help the patient and they will usually remain on the phone with you until the vehicle arrives.
7. Care on scene: When we arrive on scene, our crew member/s will assess the patient’s clinical condition and treatment will be given as needed at the scene.
8. Care at hospital: If necessary the patient will be quickly transported to a hospital A&E department or to a specialist treatment centre (such as for head injuries, heart attacks or stroke).
9. Care at home: In many cases patients do not need to be admitted to hospital and our crews can provide the treatment needed in the home.
10. Ready to help again: After attending to the patient, our staff will make sure that their equipment and vehicle is clean again, stocked and ready to respond to another 999 call.
Non life-threatening situations
In some cases, such as non-life threatening situations, a ‘blue light’ emergency response from an ambulance is not always needed. However, our control team can arrange for a nurse triage advisor to call you back. They will carry out a full assessment of the patient’s condition over the phone and then suggest the best treatment - such as being cared for at home, being referred to a GP, pharmacy or community based care service.