The 999 service is for life-threatening conditions and emergencies, such as choking, chest pain, stroke, serious blood loss or a state of unconsciousness. Using the ambulance service for its intended purpose (to tend to the critically ill and injured) increases the chance of a speedy response to those in genuine need, where you believe life is at risk.
If your condition or injury doesn’t fit the criteria outlined above but still need medical help or advice, please follow the guidelines below so that you can ‘Choose Well’ from the many other NHS services available in the West Midlands.
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Don’t be like Dee…. follow these steps and Choose well
Step 1: Self Care
Keep your own medicine cabinet stocked with common remedies for coughs, colds and headaches as well as items such as sticking plasters for minor wounds and grazes. Very minor illnesses and injuries can be treated in your home using over the counter medicine and having plenty of rest.
Step 2: Your local pharmacist
Visit your local pharmacy for over-the-counter medicines and advice. Your pharmacist can provide advice on illnesses and medicines when you are suffering from common health problems, which do not need to be seen by a nurse or doctor.
Step 3: Call 111 when it’s less urgent than 999
This new service will help if you think you might need to go to hospital, don’t know who to call for medical help, don’t have a GP to call or need medical advice or reassurance about what to do next. When you dial 111 a trained advisor will ask you questions to find out what’s wrong, give you advice, direct you to someone who can give you help like an out of hours doctor or a community nurse. If the adviser thinks it is more serious they can direct you to a local hospital or even send an ambulance. They also have a wide range of confidential health advice and information about many conditions 24 hours a day.
- You can call 111 anytime and is free from landlines and mobiles.
- You can also get a wide range of advice from the NHS Choices website.
Step 4: Use a ‘walk-in’ treatment centre, urgent care centre or minor injuries unit
They offer confidential healthcare advice and all the services you would expect from your local GP including immunisations, prescriptions as well as some minor surgery and help for minor injuries. They are usually open from early morning until late at night and you do not need an appointment to be seen by an experienced nurse or GP. These centres offer a range of treatments, complementing the services provided by local GPs and hospitals.
Step 5: GP
Make an appointment with your own GP when you have an illness or injury that will not go away. They provide medical and health advice, examinations, immunisations, prescriptions as well as clinics. Every GP has an out-of-hours service available. If you need this service, telephone your local surgery and follow the recorded instructions.
In an emergency go to your local A&E department or call 999 for an ambulance. A&E departments are found at most hospitals and they help people who show signs of being very ill or badly injured.
If you are unfortunate enough to still need to call 999, tell the operator that you want to speak to the ambulance service and you will be transferred to one of our call takers. Please remember to keep calm so that information can be recorded accurately and quickly. Listen carefully to the questions you’re asked by the call taker so that we can arrange the most appropriate help for you.
WMAS Medical Director, Dr Andy Carson, said:
“Every day, the service receives almost 3,000 ‘999’ calls, yet only 10% are genuinely life threatening emergencies. The remaining 90% consist of more minor cases (e.g. minor cuts and wounds, strains and sprains or coughs, colds, flu and generally feeling unwell) that can be dealt with by other areas of the NHS, such as GP surgeries, pharmacists and walk-in centres. If our crews are dealing with relatively ‘minor’ conditions, they may not be able to get to the patients with genuine life-threatening illness or injury as quickly as we would want, which ultimately could put lives at risk.”