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Calling 999

Our Right Response First Time campaign highlights the different ways in which we respond to 999 calls.

We will always dispatch an ambulance to patients who need time-critical help in a serious or life-threatening emergency – here are some examples:

However, we know that hospital isn’t always the most appropriate destination for patients who need less urgent help.

In 2017, only 67% of our patients who called 999 required hospital admission. When it is safe and appropriate to do so, our less serious calls can be dealt with at the scene (see, treat and refer) or over the phone (hear and treat) by our team of experts.

Stephen Segasby, Deputy Director of Operations for Yorkshire Ambulance Service said: “Ambulance services have evolved considerably in recent years and are no longer about taking all patients to a hospital emergency department.

“We are focused on providing high quality treatment for our patients wherever they may be; this could be over the phone or in person. We have a range of clinicians with a variety of skills who help us to ensure that our patients receive the right care with the right resource in the right place at the right time.

“Yes, when a patient is seriously ill or in a life-threatening condition they will be taken to the nearest emergency department or trauma unit. But for patients with less urgent needs, the focus is shifting away from acute hospitals by delivering more treatment in the home and community settings, providing clinical advice over the phone and by working alongside other health and social care partners to offer more integrated care.”

When you call 999 you will be put through to one of our Emergency Medical Dispatchers who will ask a series of questions to help identify the severity of the patient’s condition. The incident will be prioritised and the most appropriate response provided.

New national standards were introduced by NHS England in November 2017 following the largest clinical ambulance trial in the world which Yorkshire Ambulance Service participated in. Calls now fit into the following categories which determine the speed and type of our response:

Under the new system, call handlers in our 999 Emergency Operations Centres ask additional questions that can very quickly identify those patients who will be the highest priority; this allows an ambulance to be dispatched without delay. For other types of call, ambulance staff are given additional time to assess the needs of the patient more fully so that the right response can be sent first time. This has resulted in a more efficient tasking of ambulance resources.

Here are some patient case studies which provide an insight into the complex variety of responses we provide to those who call 999 for our help.

It is well documented that the number of people attending emergency departments and calling 999 for an ambulance is growing each year. Choosing the right service best suited to your illness or injury relieves this pressure.

Please remember that if it is not a life-threatening emergency and the patient does not need immediate medical attention, there are other NHS options available: