Calling 999

When you call 999, a BT operator will answer your call and ask:

"Emergency, which service do you require? Fire, Police or Ambulance?"

In the event of a medical emergency, you should ask for an ambulance. The operator will then put you through to the ambulance service control room.

A Control Assistant will answer your call and ask for information from you to prioritise your call and identify the best advice to help the patient until the ambulance arrives.

The Control Assistant will ask:

  • What telephone number you are calling from? (In case the line gets interrupted and the Control Assistant needs to call you back)
  • What is the exact location of the incident?

The address/location that you give is very important in helping the ambulance to reach the patient as quickly as possible. If you are in a rural countryside area, having your map reference or postcode to hand will be a big help.

You will also be asked for information relating to the type of incident:

  • What's the problem?
  • How many people are involved?
  • What’s the age of the patient?
  • Is the patient breathing?

If your call is not a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate treatment, your call may be transferred to a Nurse Advisor, or a Nurse Advisor may call you back.  As qualified Nurses, they will assess your symptoms in more detail in order to decide on the best course of treatment.  This could involve being cared for at home, accessing a GP service or pharmacy, or if needed they will arrange for an ambulance to be sent.

If an ambulance is sent you will be given advice on how to help the patient until the ambulance crew arrives. This could include maintaining an airway, controlling bleeding, dealing with shock etc. You will be asked to move any pets away before the crew arrives so that they can get to the patient as quickly as possible. You may also be asked to call the ambulance service back if the patient's condition changes or gets worse.

Depending on the condition of the patient, the response you will receive may be an Ambulance, a Paramedic in a Rapid Response Vehicle, an Air Ambulance, a patient care service (PCS) Ambulance crew, or a community first responder (CFR) who lives within the community and is trained to deal with life threatening situations such as heart attacks etc.

DON'T HANG UP, stay on the line. The Ambulance/response will have been dispatched and mobile as soon as you have provided your location.

You may be asked for specific details about the patient's condition as well as information about the safety of the scene, to ensure the crew is protected against hazards and dangers. This might include questions about:

  • What part of the body was injured? (So that the ambulance service can identify the seriousness)
  • Is there any serious bleeding? (So that the ambulance service can provide correct advice to control the bleed)
  • Does the patient have chest pains? (So that the ambulance service can provide the correct advice to make the patient comfortable)
  • Is the attacker still nearby? (To inform the crew so they can remain safe)
  • Is anyone trapped in the vehicle? (So that the ambulance service can inform other relevant emergency services)

All information about the patient is entered into a computerised priority dispatch system and the nearest appropriate ambulance crew is sent.

If the patient's condition is immediately life threatening, breathing is absent /severely compromised or their life could be in danger, the Control Assistant will give you simple, effective instructions on how to assist until the ambulance crew arrives to take over. This might include guiding you through the steps of carrying out CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), dealing with choking or helping with childbirth. The ambulance service can provide foreign language interpreters if required.


The control room will keep the ambulance crew up to date with any new information about the patient's condition or about the safety of the incident while they are on the way to the incident, using radio and data communication.

If possible get someone to meet the ambulance and show them where the incident is. Have something visible so we can locate you, such as car lights, a torch, waving with arms and clothing, or a jacket or coat.

When help arrives, the patient's clinical condition will be assessed and treatment may also be given at the scene. If after assessment, the patient's condition requires transport to hospital, the hospital will be contacted to ask them to prepare for the arrival of the patient. The patient will be taken to the nearest accident and emergency department.

The crew will hand over the care of the patient to the hospital and prepare themselves and their vehicle for their next call.

The Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust aims to respond to all calls within the minimal amount of time, aiming to achieve an eight minute response if the patient's condition is immediately life threatening.

Remember though, for emergencies such as unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, a suspected heart attack / chest pain, heavy blood loss, serious injury or severe burns, dial 999.

If you are deaf or speech-impaired you can still access 999 services from a mobile phone by sending an SMS text message to 999. Your phone will need to be registered with the emergencySMS service. You can find out more from the emergency SMS website.

If you're not sure what to do, need information or advice or require details of a pharmacy or A & E department that is near to you, contact NHS Direct Wales on 0845 4647.