What happens when you call 999?

When you call 999 you will be put through to the operator who will ask you what service you need. If you ask for an ambulance you will be put through to your local ambulance  service and a call handler will ask you a number of questions. It is vitally important that you stay calm, listen carefully and answer the questions we ask fully. If we ask you to repeat an answer, it’s to ensure we have the correct information. If you don’t understand a question, say so. Initially, you will be asked four questions:

  1. Is the patient breathing?
  2. What address are you calling from?
  3. What number are you calling from (in case you get cut off and we need to call you back)?
  4. What is the reason for the call?

Answering these questions will NOT delay help, but it will help us give you important first aid advice while our staff are on their way. Every call that we receive is triaged to decide what is the most appropriate response to your call.  We need as much information as possible from you about the patient’s condition as this will help us assess what response to make.  The extra information also helps us to make sure you get the most appropriate help. The better the understanding of the patient’s condition, the better our staff will be able to help you.

Not all calls require an ambulance. Some 999 calls can be dealt with by an experienced paramedic in our control room who will discuss the patients condition further. The paramedic may refer you to your GP, a walk-in centre, an alternative care pathway or simply give you some advice.  Our staff are very experienced in ensuring that you get the right help, at the right time and in the right place.

What can I do before help arrives?

If you are unfortunate enough to have to dial 999, there are a number of things that you can do to assist our staff.

  • If you are in the street, stay with the patient until help arrives
  • Call us back on 999 if the patient’s condition changes or your location changes
  • If you are calling from work, ask someone to open the doors and signal where the ambulance staff are needed
  • If you are at home, please make sure that we are able to identify your house easily – is the house name or number clearly visible? If it is at night, make sure lights are on so that we can identify your house more easily
  • Lock away any family pets
  • 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
  • Although it may not be easy, please try to stay calm – we’re here to help

How can I prepare for an emergency?

There are a number of simple things you can do today to help us in the future to ensure we aren’t delayed in getting help to you:

  • Check that your house number can be visibly seen from the road.
  • If you live on an estate, check there is a clear sign to direct emergency services and, if you live in a flat, ensure that all lifts are working.
  • If it’s dark outside, turn on your outside light to help our staff to find you quickly.