Dial 999 to call an ambulance in the UK

United Kingdom: Ambulance and Emergency Medical Services



  • In 2014-15, UK public ambulances responded to 9 million 999 calls  — an average of 17.1 emergency calls per minute
  • UK ambulance services are seriously overburdened
  • A glut of trained prehospital providers and high workforce turnover due to poor working conditions has led to a deterioration of provider skills
  • In the past few years, an exodus of UK paramedics has created severe personnel shortages



Dialing 999 will connect you to EMS, police and fire services.

Yes, 999 is accessible throughout the entire United Kingdom, including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of WightIsle of ManJersey, and Guernsey.

In Gibraltar the emergency number is: +350 200 79700.

You can also access emergency assistance by dialing 112, the common European emergency number.

Yes, though there is some variability in educational entry requirements between ambulance trusts.

  • Most training prehospital emergency care training is provided by individual ambulance service education departments, some of which is hospital-based including, in some cases, with local universities
  • The Core Content and Assessment is developed by Institute of Health and Care Development (IHCD)
  • National protocols are developed in conjunction with the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee (JRCALC)
  • After completion of schooling and exams, technicians spend one year under direct supervision of fully-trained technician/paramedic.
  • Refresher training is required every three years
  • Further training for responders after 12 months on the job is available with recommendation by the employing ambulance trust

The UK in recent years has begun to implement a new training certification, Paramedic Practitioners:, which is a three-year university-based modular course for paramedics, offering an extension of their scope of practice, including extended care for specific minor illness and injury.

Ground Ambulance in the UK

There are several different ambulance response types provided by NHS ambulance services. The typical response vehicle is a standard ambulance usually manned by a paramedic and a technician. Solo responders on motorbikes/cars may also be mobilized. In busy urban areas Rapid Response Vehicles which aren’t capable of transporting patients may  be dispatched to provide care before the arrival of ambulance (or in lieu of it). For more serious incidents with longer on-scene times — e.g., entrapment, motor vehicle collisions, mass-casualty incidents etc — doctors who participate in voluntary Immediate Care Schemes may be mobilized directly by dispatch. Mobile Medical Teams (MMT) may also be dispatched from the nearest hospital in cases of, for example, terrorist attacks, which include emergency physicians and nurses, anesthetists, surgeons and surgical nurses.

Requests for emergency assistance to 999 call centers are triaged according to three categories determined through Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System software:

  • Category A
    • Immediately life-threatening medical conditions
  • Category B
    • Serious, but not immediately life-threatening
  • Category C
    • Neither immediately life-threatening nor serious

According to Black (2005): “Each year approximately 5% of population will use the Emergency Ambulance Service, although responding to emergency calls only accounts for about 10% of the total ambulance workload.

Services provided through NHS Ambulances are free at point of delivery for residents and visitors, funded through general taxation.


Common Emergencies in the UK
  • Security threats
Recommended Vaccinations for the UK

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), different groups of travelers will require different vaccinations for travel in the UK:

  • All Travelers:
    • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
    • Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
    • Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
    • Polio vaccine
    • Your yearly flu shot
  • Some Travelers:
    • Hepatitis A
    • Hepatitis B
    • Rabies

Read more about travel in the UK at the CDC website: (Last accessed: Aug. 7, 2017)

The National Health Services (NHS) Ambulance Services oversees all ambulance operations in the UK vis-a-vis ambulance trusts and other public agencies, including:


“What is an ambulance trust?” [Source: NHS website]

Ambulance services in England help many people with serious or life-threatening conditions. They also provide a range of other urgent and planned healthcare and transport services. Ambulance services are managed by either an ambulance trust or a foundation trust.

If you call for an emergency ambulance, the calls are prioritised into:

  • Category A – immediately life threatening
  • Category B or C – not life threatening

The emergency control room decides what kind of response is needed and whether an ambulance is required. For all three types of emergency, they may send a rapid-response vehicle, crewed by a paramedic and equipped to provide treatment at the scene of an incident.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that in 2014-15, ambulance trusts dealt with 9 million 999 calls  — on average, this works out as 17.1 emergency calls per minute. You can find the full report about ambulance services in England on the HSCIC website. You can also see our guidance on when to dial 999: responding to emergencies.

The NHS is also responsible for providing transport to get many patients to hospital for treatment. In many areas the ambulance trust provides this service.

Black JM, Davies GD: “International EMS Systems: United Kingdom.” Resuscitation 2005;64:21-9.



[Source: 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO]


[Source: 2014 Global Status Report on Violence Prevention, WHO-UNDP]

Beacon Logotype

Beacon emergency dispatch is a cloud-based, do-it-yourself platform for emergency services that alerts, coordinates and tracks prehospital personnel using any mobile phone, with or without internet.

Scroll to Top