You should call 999 when someone is seriously ill or injured and you think their life is at risk, for example, a traumatic head injury, severe loss of blood, chest pains or loss of consciousness.
You shouldn’t call 999 if it is not an emergency so we can make sure we’re helping those most in need.
If it’s not an emergency but you still need medical help, call 111 to reach the free NHS 111 service for advice. You should also consider contacting your GP practice, local pharmacy or walk-in centre in the first instance for non-urgent medical advice.
When you call 999 you will be asked if you need the ambulance service, police or fire service. You will then be connected to our emergency operations centre where we will ask you some questions about the patient and your location. This is so that we’re able to start arranging help straight away.
Once we know where you are and whether or not the patient is breathing and conscious, we’ll begin asking more questions about the patient, such as:
- their age, gender and medical history
- if there is any bleeding or chest pain
- details of the injury and how it happened
Don’t worry – these questions will not delay the help you need, they simply allow us to make sure you’ll receive the most appropriate care and will help us to continue to give advice over the phone.
Based on the nature of the illness or injury, your call will be prioritised into one of four categories and this will determine the type of service we provide and how quickly an ambulance will get to you if one is necessary:
- Category one – for people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses.
- Category two – for people whose injuries and illnesses may not be life-threatening but still require emergency care.
- Category three – for people who require urgent help but it isn’t an emergency. In these cases you may be treated by ambulance staff in your own home, avoiding a trip to
hospital. An ambulance may take a little longer to arrive so that we can give help to people who are in emergency situations, howeverwe still aim to get to you within two hours.
- Category four – for people with less urgent conditions. In some
instancesyou may be given advice over the telephone or referred to another service such as a GP or pharmacist. If we need to send ambulance staff to you, we will aim to get to you within three hours.
You can find out more about the categories by taking a look at our performance targets.