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Calling 999

When to call 999

In a serious medical emergency.Mandy sat at screen of computer

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

Examples of medical emergencies include (but are not limited to):

  • chest pain
  • difficulty in breathing
  • unconsciousness
  • severe loss of blood
  • severe burns or scalds
  • choking
  • fitting or concussion
  • drowning
  • severe allergic reactions.

If you no longer need an ambulance or you can make your own way to hospital, you should call back on 999 to let us know. Crews can then be redirected to another patient who needs us.

However, people are asked not to ring back to ask how long crews will be as this could delay our call takers speaking to someone about a seriously ill or injured patient. You should only call back if the patient’s condition worsens or they no longer need help.

If you’ve been advised that our crews are on their way, please:Two call handlers at their workstation wearing uniform and headsets taking calls

  • Take any pets to another room
  • Turn on any outside lights if it’s dark – so we can see your house number
  • Have someone flag down the ambulance crew if possible
  • Make sure any relevant medication and medical documents are to hand
  • Put on a face covering – and ask others in the property to do so – where possible

Calling 999 doesn’t mean we’ll definitely send you an ambulance. We’ll provide the most appropriate response, which may be a clinical telephone assessment or referral to another NHS service.

Also, calling 999 if it’s not a serious emergency will not mean you’re seen quicker if you’re taken to hospital.

When it’s not a life-threatening emergency

If it 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:

  • Look after yourself or the patient at home. Many minor illnesses and injuries can be treated in your home by using over-the-counter medicine and getting plenty of rest. If you cannot stay at home, see if family or friends are able to help.
  • Talk to your local pharmacist.
  • Visit or call your GP.
  • Visit the NHS 111 online website.
  • Call NHS 111.
  • Make your own way to your local A&E department, walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre. (Arriving in an ambulance does not necessarily mean you will be treated more quickly.)


An infographic with a background image of a call handler in LAS uniform and an NHS lanyard. Foreground text in a computer icon shaped text box reads: 111 can help if you have a medical problem and you're not sure what to do. The text also includes the website link

Not sure where your nearest health services are? Visit

How to call 999

You can call an ambulance by using 999 or 112.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can contact us by texting from your mobile. This facility is available in any type of emergency and is for people who can’t use the standard 999 voice or the RNID’s text relay services.

To use the text service you must register your mobile phone on the emergencySMS website.

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