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:

  • Category 1
  • Category 2
  • Category 3
  • Category 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 Category 1 calls in an average time of 7 minutes and at least 9 out of 10 times within 15 minutes. Category 2 calls will be responded to in an average time of 18 minutes and at least 9 out of 10 times within 40 minutes.

Category three will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 120 minutes.

Category four will be responded to at least 9 out of 10 times within 180 minutes. For these less urgent calls, in some instances you may be given advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist.

Ambulance services are also measured on how we treat patients and the outcomes of the treatment. These are national targets designed to make sure you get the right response, first time. The categories are part of the new Ambulance Response Programme, which was announced nationally by NHS England in July 2017 and launched across the North West in August 2017.

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.