Calling 999

Jack EMD

You should call 999 when someone is seriously ill or injured and you think their life is at risk. If it’s not life-threatening, but you need medical help fast, call NHS 111.

When you need medical help or advice, you can also consider the following options:

MTRC Options

If you call 999, a BT operator will answer your call and say:

"Emergency, which service do you require? Fire, police or ambulance?"

Once connected to the ambulance service, you’ll be asked by an Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) for the location of the emergency.

To help us locate you, we use a number of tools, such as mobile phone triangulation or subscriber information sent by your landline provider.

Once the location of the emergency is known, we can arrange help. This will be done whilst the EMD asks you questions about the problem and, if necessary, gives you advice over the phone until help arrives.

Calls to the ambulance service are prioritised into different categories  which determine the speed and type of response. These categories are:

  • red 1
  • red 2
  • green 1
  • green 2
  • green 3
  • green 4

The information gathered during the 999 call helps the dispatchers to decide what type of response is needed. This could be an emergency ambulance, rapid  response vehicle, cycle response unit or a hazardous area response team. We may also send voluntary community first responders, air ambulances, mountain rescue teams and emergency doctors to emergencies.

We aim to respond to red 1 and 2 calls within 8 minutes in 75 per cent of cases and 19 minutes in 95 per cent of cases. This is a national target – you can see how we are performing against this target here.

Ambulance services are also measured on how we treat patients and the outcomes of the treatment.

There are no national targets for incidents categorised as green, but we aim to respond as follows:

  • green 1 within 20 minutes
  • green 2 within 30 minutes
  • green 3 within 180 minutes
  • green 4 within 240 minutes

Patients whose conditions are not deemed to be serious or potentially life-threatening may receive a call back from a specialist paramedic who will ask questions over the phone to work out the right care for their needs.