It is very likely that at some point in your life, you will either witness, be involved in an accident or experience a medical emergency. A medical emergency is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. Knowing what to do next and who to call can potentially save lives. The NHS Choices website contains useful information on what to do in both medical/non-medical emergencies, click here to find out more.
ALWAYS Call 999 in a medical emergency – when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
Medical emergencies can include:
- loss of consciousness
- Heart attack or stroke (every second counts with these conditions so act fast)
- fits that are not stopping
- Major trauma (often the result of a serious road traffic accident, a stabbing, a shooting, a fall from height, or a serious head injury)
- severe confused state
- persistent, severe chest pain
- breathing difficulties
- severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
- severe allergic reactions
- severe burns or scalds
If it is a genuine emergency, where someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, call 999 and don't panic.
You can contact emergency services via SMS if you are deaf, hearing impaired or have a speech impediment. Visit the emergencySMS website for more information or to register your phone.
1. Answer the questions
Once you are connected to the 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.
2. 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?
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.
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.
How to provide first aid
Here is a step by step guide that you can follow when providing first aid:
Before giving First Aid
- Check that you and the casualty are not in any danger. If you are, make the situation safe.
- Assess the casualty and dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance (if necessary).
You can now carry out basic First Aid:
- STAY CALM and try getting an overview of the situation.
- 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. More information is available HERE.
- If a person is not breathing normally after an accident, call for an ambulance and start CPR straight away if you can. More information can be found HERE.
If it is not a life-threatening emergency and you or the person you are with does not need immediate medical attention, please consider other options before dialing 999:
- self care at home
- calling NHS 111
- talking to a pharmacist
- visiting or calling your GP
- going to a local NHS walk-in centre
- attending an urgent care centre or minor injuries unit
- making your own way to your local A&E department – arriving in an ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker
Choose the best service for your needs, as this will ensure the ambulance service is able to respond to the people who need help the most.
If you're worried about an urgent medical concern, you can call 111 and speak to a fully trained adviser. For less urgent health needs, you should contact your GP or local pharmacist.
The NHS 111 service is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a team of fully trained advisers. They will ask questions to assess your symptoms and, depending on the situation, will then:
- give you self-care advice
- connect you to a nurse, emergency dentist or GP
- book you a face-to-face appointment
- send an ambulance directly, if necessary
- direct you to the local service that can help you best with your concern
The 111 service is also available online, via video relay service that allows you to make a video call to a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter and by text. To find out more, visit the NHS 111 site.
What are urgent care centres?
Urgent care centres are an alternative to A&E, treating both children and adults. Urgent care centres provide treatment for minor injuries and illnesses that are urgent but not life threatening for example:
- Sprains and strains
- Minor broken bones, such as toes, ankles, wrists, fingers or collarbone
- Minor burns to small areas
- Minor cuts, including those that need stitches
- Common infections such as chest ear or throat
For most people in Ealing, the closest urgent care centre is based at Ealing Hospital, which also treats children 24/7.
Please note: there is not a children’s A&E at Ealing Hospital, should your child need more specialist care than the urgent care centre can provide, your child will be safely transferred with you to another hospital. More infomation on urgent and non urgent services for children within Ealing can be found here.
There are also local urgent care centres at Northwick Park Hospital, Hillingdon Hospital and West Middlesex Hospital. They are all staffed by experienced GPs and nurses, healthcare assistants and other healthcare practitioners. All Urgent Care centres below are open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
West Middlesex Hospital
Northwick Park Hospital
Urgent care services should only be used if you require urgent medical attention and cannot be seen by your registered GP. You can find your nearest GP here.
GPs look after the health of people in their local community and deal with a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, offer advice on topics such as smoking and diet, run clinics, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical operations.
If you are not already registered with a GP, you can visit your local surgery where you will be asked to complete a registration form so that all your records can be transferred to your new practice. You can choose a surgery of your choice, as long as you live within its catchment area and it is accepting new patients.
Visits to the GP are free, but you'll usually need to make an appointment. You can make appointments by phoning your surgery, some surgeries even have the option of booking via an online account. GP opening hours can vary, if you need to get access to a GP out of surgery hours you should firstly call your GP practice who will be able to provide you with the contact number for their out of hours service.
Before you make an appointment to see your GP, consider the alternatives. Your local pharmacist may be able to give you the help you need, so you won't have to spend time waiting for an appointment. Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals, and may offer a wider range of health services than you might think. Read more about the services pharmacists provide.