9 Signs That You Should Urgently Call an Ambulance

How to call an ambulance

With the NHS under increasing strain, the UK’s ambulance service is under more pressure than ever. Waiting times for an ambulance can now far exceed the national target of 8 minutes, even in a life-threatening emergency. This means that first aid skills are more important than ever and key to a casualty’s survival.

It is important to avoid overloading the emergency services. For this reason you should be able to assess when someone is seriously ill or hurt. You should also understand whether it is better to call an ambulance, go to A&E or to your GP.

The following information aims to help you with this extremely difficult and critical decision:

If the casualty is an elderly person, baby or very young child and you are seriously concerned – always call an ambulance. Moreover, note that children can often mask serious symptoms and their condition can then quickly deteriorate.

The decision you make will vary from case to case. Anyway we would strongly advise you to immediately administer First Aid and call an ambulance if someone:

  • Appears not to be breathing.
  • Is having chest pain, difficulty breathing or feeling weak, numb or struggling to speak.
  • Experiencing severe bleeding that you are unable to stop by applying direct pressure on the wound.
  • Is struggling for breath, possibly breathing in a strange way appearing to ‘suck in’ below their rib cage as they use other muscles to help them to breathe.
  • Is unconscious or unaware of what is going on around them.
  • Has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover from it later.
  • If they are having a severe allergic reaction accompanied by difficulty in breathing or collapse – always get an ambulance to come to you.
  • If a child is burnt and the burn is severe enough to need dressing – treat the burn under cool running water and call an ambulance. Keep cooling the burn until the paramedics arrive and look out for signs of shock.
  • If someone has fallen from a height, been hit by something travelling at speed (like a car) or been hit with force and there is a possibility of a spinal injury.


You don’t get seen any faster in A&E if you arrive by ambulance

Take someone straight to A&E if they have:

  • A fever and are floppy and lethargic
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • A cut that is gaping or losing a lot of blood, if they have amputated a finger or if there is something embedded in the wound.
  • A leg or arm injury and can’t use the limb.
  • Swallowed poison or tablets and are not showing any adverse effects ( calling 111 can also give you advise from the poisons database.  If they are behaving strangely or experiencing any symptoms from the poison; call an ambulance immediately)


Go to your Family Doctor:

For less serious and non life-threatening medical concerns, you contact your GP or phone 111 for medical advice

Most importantly – trust your instincts. If you are seriously worried, administer First Aid and get medical help quickly.

We strongly recommend that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit firstaidforlife.org.uk  emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk or tel 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.