When and How to Contact Emergency Services

Ringing 999/112 or 111

NHS ambulance services

There are currently 11 NHS ambulance trusts in England (separate management arrangements are in place for the Isle of Wight).

Ambulance services help many people with serious or life-threatening conditions. They also provide a range of other urgent and planned healthcare and transport services.

Ambulance crews can include a range medical staff, such as emergency care assistants and paramedics. Ambulance trusts should ensure that patients are given the appropriate level of care. For example, if someone needs a paramedic, one should be dispatched. Crews are highly trained in all aspects of emergency care, from trauma injuries to cardiac arrests. An ambulance is equipped with a variety of emergency care equipment, such as heart defibrillators, oxygen, intravenous drips, spinal and traction splints and a range of drugs.

Patients will always be taken to hospital when there is a medical need for this. However, ambulance staff now carry out more diagnostic tests and do basic procedures at the scene. Many crews also refer patients to social services, directly admit patients to specialist units and administer a wide range of drugs to deal with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, allergic reactions, overdoses and heart failure.

Emergency 999 calls

Emergency 999 calls to the ambulance service are prioritised into two categories to ensure life-threatening cases receive the quickest response:

  1. An emergency response will reach 75% of these calls within eight minutes. Where onward transport is required, 95% of life-threatening calls will receive an ambulance vehicle capable of transporting the patient safely within 19 minutes of the request for transport being made.
  2. For conditions that are not life threatening, response targets are set locally.

A 999 call should only be made in a genuine emergency. To ensure seriously ill and injured patients are treated as quickly as possible, people whose call is not serious should consider other healthcare options rather than calling 999.  These could include:

Dialling 999

Always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk.

Is it a genuine emergency?
Do not hang up
Wait for a response from the ambulance control room as they might have further questions for you. The person who handles your call will let you know when they have all the information they need. You might also be instructed on how to give first aid until the ambulance arrives.

When it’s not a life-threatening emergency
If the situation is not a life-threatening emergency and you or the person you are with do not need immediate medical attention, consider other options before you dial 999.

Source – NHS UK