What happens when you call 999

Calling 999 in a medical emergency will connect you to an operator in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). 

The operator will then ask you a series of questions - this will not delay how long the ambulance will take to reach you, but will help us to better establish the treatment you or the patient needs.

You will need to have the following information available when calling 999:

  • The address where you are - including the postcode.  This information is very important to us as it helps to reach the patient as quickly as possible. If you are in a rural countryside area, having your map reference or postcode to hand will be a big help. If you are unsure where you are look for telephone boxes, people to ask, motorway marker posts (if it's safe to stop), or street signs.
  • The phone number you're calling from (in the case the line gets interrupted and the call taker needs to call you back)
  • What has happened

Once we know this, we can send an ambulance to you.

You will also be asked some additional questions.  Answering these questions will help us to give you important first aid advice while our staff are on the way:

  • The patient's age, sex and medical history
  • Whether the patient is conscious, breathing and if there is any bleeding or chest pain
  • Details of the injury and how it happened

Specific details about the patient's condition, depending on the nature of the call

  • What part of the body was injured? (So that we can identify the seriousness)
  • Is there any serious bleeding? (So that we can provide correct advice to control the bleed)
  • Does the patient have chest pains? (So that we can provide the correct advice to make the patient more comfortable)

You may be asked information about the safety of the scene, to ensure the crew is protected against hazards and dangers. This would cover violent incidents or road accidents and might include questions such as:

  • Is the attacker still nearby? (To inform the crew so they can remain safe)
  • Is anyone trapped in the vehicle? (So that we can inform other relevant emergency services)

If the patient's condition is immediately life threatening, breathing is absent/severely compromised or their life could be in danger, the EMD will give you simple, effective instructions on how to assist until the ambulance crew arrives to take over. This might include guiding you through the steps of carrying out CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), dealing with choking or helping with childbirth. We can provide foreign language interpreters if required.

Depending on the condition of the patient, the response you will receive may be an ambulance, a rapid response vehicle, a Doctor, an air ambulance, a patient transport service (PTS) ambulance crew, or a community first responder (CFR) who lives within the community and is trained to deal with life threatening situations such as heart attacks etc. All information about the patient is entered into a computerised priority dispatch system and the nearest appropriate available resource is sent.

What can you do before help arrives?

EOC staff will give you advice on how to help the patient until the ambulance crew arrives. This could include maintaining an airway, controlling bleeding, dealing with shock etc. In addition to the first aid advice given to you by our trained operators, there are a number of actions you can take:

  • Stay with the patient - if they are in the street
  • Call us back if - the patient's condition changes or your location changes
  • If you are calling from home or work - open the doors or windows so you can signal to the ambulance staff your location, or ask someone else to do this for you
  • Lock away any family pets so that the crew can get to the patient as quickly as possible
  • If you can, write down the patient's GP details and collect any medication that they are taking
  • Tell us if the patient has any allergies
  • Stay calm.  Our staff are there to help, any violence or aggression towards them is not tolerated and will delay their arrival to the patient

How can you prepare for an emergency?

  • Make your house number visible from the street
  • If you live on an estate, make sure signs are clear so that ambulances can navigate around the area more easily

DON'T HANG UP, stay on the line, unless you are told otherwise. The Ambulance/response will be sent on its way to you as soon as you have given us your location.

TRY TO STAY CALM, in the most serious situations the EMD is there to help you to help the patient. With nearly all emergencies the sooner the patient receives care the better, and we may ask you to help with that care until the emergency responders arrive.

The EOC will keep the ambulance crew up to date with any new information about the patient's condition or about the safety of the incident while they are on the way to the incident, using radio and data communication.

If possible get someone to meet the ambulance and show them where the incident is. If the call is at night, have something visible so we can locate you, such as car lights, a torch, waving with arms and clothing, or a jacket or coat. Consider how easy it is for people to find your property, do you have a house number displayed? If so, is it clearly visible?

When help arrives, the patient's clinical condition will be assessed and treatment may also be given at the scene. If after assessment, the patient's condition requires transport to hospital. The patient will be taken to the nearest accident and emergency department.

The crew will hand over the care of the patient to the hospital and prepare themselves and their vehicle for their next call.

The North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust aims to respond to all calls within the minimal amount of time, aiming to achieve an eight minute response if the patient's condition is immediately life threatening.