999 – When and what

[info taken from NHS Choices. Need MaS and Tony Heselton to check and change it to make it more SCAS]

When should you ring 999?

Only call 999 in a medical emergency i.e. when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

Medical emergencies can include:

Call 999 immediately if you or someone else is having a heart attack or stroke. Every second counts with these conditions. Also call 999 if you think someone has had a major trauma. Major trauma is often the result of a serious road traffic accident, a stabbing, a shooting, a fall from height, or a serious head injury

What happens when you ring 999

Once you are connected to a call handler, you’ll have to answer a series of questions to establish what’s wrong, such as:

  • Where are you (including the area or postcode)?
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • Exactly what has happened?

This will allow the operator to determine the most appropriate response as quickly as possible.

Dialling 999 does not necessarily mean an ambulance will be dispatched. The call handler will decide what is appropriate. It may be safe enough for you to be seen elsewhere, or you can be given telephone advice by a medically trained clinical adviser. An ambulance will be sent if it is a life-threatening emergency.

Response units that could be dispatched include:

  • an emergency ambulance
  • a rapid response vehicle
  • a community first responder
  • a combination of the above

Don’t hang up yet

Wait for a response from the ambulance control room, as they might have further questions for you, such as:

  • What is the age, gender and medical history of the patient?
  • Is the person awake or conscious and breathing?
  • Is there any serious bleeding or chest pain?
  • What is the injury and how did it happen?

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.

How you can assist the ambulance crew?

There are a number of things you can do to assist the ambulance service:

  • If you are in the street, stay with the patient until help arrives.
  • Call the ambulance service back if the patient’s condition changes.
  • Call the ambulance service back if your location changes.
  • If you are calling from home or work, ask someone to open the doors and signal where the ambulance staff are needed.
  • Lock away family pets.
  • If you can, write down the patient’s GP details and collect any medication they are taking.
  • If you can, inform the paramedics about any allergies the patient has.
  • Stay calm.

If appropriate, you may want to call the patient’s doctor. The doctor may meet you at the A&E department, or call with important information about the patient.

How to provide first aid

It’s important to stay calm and then try get an overview of the situation. See if you can identify what the most serious problem is. The most obvious problem is not always the most serious. Treat the most life-threatening problems, such as lack of breathing, bleeding or shock, first. Check for broken bones and other injuries afterwards.

If a person is unconscious but is breathing and has no other life-threatening conditions, they should be placed in the recovery position. If a person is not breathing normally after an accident, call for an ambulance and start CPR straight away if you can.