What to do in a medical emergency - advice on when to dial 999 and when you should use other NHS services instead to get the right treatment.
If you are injured or think you are seriously ill, you can go to the hospital Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) by yourself, or get a friend or family member to take you.
In an Emergency Dial 999
In an emergency, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Stay calm, describe your exact location and look after the casualty, following the advice given to you by the emergency call taker, who will assist you until help arrives.
What is an Emergency?
It is often very obvious if the person is seriously ill and needs immediate emergency care. An emergency is a critical or life-threatening situation.
Generally, you should treat the situation as an emergency if:
there has been a serious head injury with heavy bleeding
the person is, or has been, unconscious
there is a suspected broken bone or dislocation
the person is experiencing severe chest pain or is having trouble breathing
the person is experiencing severe stomach ache that cannot be treated by over-the-counter remedies
there is severe bleeding from any part of the body
Get the Right Treatment
Cuts, bruises and sprains are not normally considered to be emergencies. They can usually be treated at home, by your GP or in an NHS Walk-in centre or a minor injuries unit.
Unless you need emergency medical attention it is best to avoid going to A&E. Doctors and nurses there are equipped to deal with serious cases of injury and illness, not routine and minor ailments.
If you are not sure if it is an emergency, telephone NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for advice on what to do.
NHS Direct can also provide details of local emergency dental services and general advice on pain relief.
Remember lives can be put at risk if an ambulance is genuinely needed but is already out answering an inappropriate 999 call.