Frequently asked questions

Who should use this number?

The new healthcare professional line: 0345 140 0144, is for use by all HCPs –including GPs and clinicians working in hospitals, the community, nursing homes, mental health units, out of hours providers, midwife-led units, etc.

It is important that the patient’s clinician makes the telephone call because clinical questions about the person’s condition will be asked.

Where this is not possible, e.g. for a single point of access, the person making the call must have certain information, which can be found in the booking checklist – available to download at www.nwas.nhs.uk/professionals.

When should I use this number?

Any time there is a clinical need for a patient to have urgent or emergency transport to hospital or between hospital sites.

The level of ambulance response is determined by the information you provide about the patient’s clinical condition and corresponds with the national Ambulance Response Programme standards which were introduced in August 2017.

Call categories

999 is still available to HCPs but should only be used if the situation is immediately life-threatening and requires additional clinical support on scene as soon as possible to deliver life-saving support (e.g. a ‘Category 1’ incident).

For all other urgent and emergency incidents, including those given above as examples for Category 2, the 0345 number should be used. Through this route, HCPs will be asked relevant questions regarding their clinical assessment of the patient to allow the correct response to be determined as quickly as possible. The response will be prioritised based on clinical need and calls from HCPs will be treated equally to calls from the public that come in through 999.

If the healthcare professional line is dialled in the event of an immediately, life-threatening situation, the very first question asked will establish this and the call will still be processed accordingly through 999 triage without delay.

The process for booking through the Patient Transport Service (PTS) remains unchanged. PTS is operated by NWAS in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, and is for non-emergency transport to routine appointments for those who meet the eligibility criteria. 

Why am I being asked for NEWS2?

NEWS2 is a ‘National Early Warning Score’ used by clinicians across the country to quickly determine the degree of illness of a patient. HCPs requesting an emergency ambulance for all patients who are aged 16 years or over and not pregnant will be asked for NEWS2.  Where this is not available, the HCP will be asked to provide a clinical reason for the emergency response. 

You can find more about NEWS2 here or access free NEWS2 online training materials here.

Does the new framework impact on the Patient Transport Service?

The changes do not affect the Patient Transport Service; you can continue to book and use this service as normal for patients who meet the eligibility criteria and require transport for non-urgent journeys or to and from routine appointments. If you need an urgent or emergency transfer then please use the new healthcare professional number.

You can find more about PTS, and access the online booking system, by clicking here.

Please can you confirm if this new number is also for patients that are being discharged to their home or to a care home?

The new number is for requesting urgent or emergency ambulance transport. For non-urgent journeys, patients who meet the eligibility criteria can use the Patient Transport Service – the booking process for PTS is not part of this pilot and remains unchanged.

A ‘who should you contact to book?’ flowchart is available to download from this page, which helps illustrate which service is most appropriate.

Does this new number cover neonatal and children transport?

Yes we do manage children and neonatal transfers and these journeys would be requested via the HCP telephone line.

It is worth bearing in mind that specialist neonatal transfers or any transfer journey requiring intervention beyond the scope of a paramedic would require a transfer team or clinical escort to accompany the patient.

Is it true that ambulance response times are downgraded because the patient is with a GP?

No, the new process is designed to ensure patients receive an equitable response, based on their clinical need, regardless of where they are or who they are with.  If you have concerns about our response to a request, please get in touch so we can look into this.

Where can I download the latest information and resources such as the poster and booking checklist?

Visit www.nwas.nhs.uk/professionals to access all materials

In our single point of access, we coordinate care for a cohort of complex patients over the phone. The calls are made by nurses and there has been the need to contact 999 on a number of occasions when talking to a patient – would we use the healthcare professional line in this scenario?       

As the staff are registered nurses, it would be suitable to access the ambulance service using the new healthcare professional number. However, in immediately life-threatening circumstances such as a cardiac arrest, peri-arrest or choking, calling 999 would be a more appropriate route to access the service. By calling 999 the call will be processed through our triage system and relevant pre-arrival advice will be given to the caller. The new number allows HCPs to request both emergency (blue-light) and urgent (non-blue-light) transport using a new process which is much more streamlined and responsive to the professional’s clinical assessment of the patient.

Do you ask for the patients’ body mass index (BMI) in case a bariatric ambulance is required?

With regards to bariatric patients, this is a question that is asked during the call handling process within the new HCP Module and we also allow callers to offer any other pertinent information towards the end of the process. This is facilitated via a ‘free text’ box and obviously the more information we have regarding a patient’s requirements/condition the better we can prioritise the response and allocate appropriate resource.

Anyone with a BMI of 40 or more, or a BMI 35-40 with comorbidities, requires a bariatric vehicle.

Please could you inform me of the cost of calling the new number for ambulance transport from my personal mobile number?

The typical calling costs for calling 0345 numbers from the UK can be found below. If you have inclusive minutes, 03 numbers are treated in the same way as 01 and 02 telephone numbers, meaning that they are usually part of your inclusive minutes.

  • BT 10p per minute All tariffs
  • EE 30p-40p per minute All tariffs
  • O2 35p-40p per minute All tariffs
  • Sky Talk 10p per minute All tariffs
  • TalkTalk 12p per minute All tariffs
  • Three 3p-35p per minute All tariffs
  • Virgin Media 11p per minute All tariffs
  • Virgin Mobile 35p-40p per minute Pay monthly / PAYG
  • Vodafone 30p-45p per minute Pay monthly / PAYG

Why have these changes been introduced?

The improvements to the national frameworks have been led by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) and NHS England in response to HCP concerns about the previous system and developed with their input. We are one of 3 ambulance services currently piloting the new frameworks.

We will be developing the pilot as it is rolled out to continuously make improvements. We appreciate the new number is a change of process for many HCPs but we would like to reassure colleagues that the new frameworks will lead to benefits for them and their patients, including:

  • An equitable response for patients who are with HCPs and members of the public dialling 999
  • A smoother process, with most calls answered by a team dedicated to handling HCP requests
  • Patients receiving the right response, at the right time – by working with HCP colleagues we can ensure ambulance resources are used appropriately, keeping vehicles and crews free to respond quickly to the most serious incidents.