When to phone an ambulance First Aid for Life

Our Emergency Services are at breaking point and when someone is sick or injured it can be difficult to assess how serious it is; and to judge whether they need an ambulance; can be driven to A&E, or taken to their GP. With everyone competing for these vital resources if we can use them appropriately it will inevitably save lives.

Attending a First Aid course will equip you with vital skills to know what to do. The following information aims to help you with this extremely difficult and critical decision:

If you are dealing with an emergency with an elderly person, baby or very young child and you are seriously concerned – always call an ambulance. Children can mask serious symptoms and quickly deteriorate.

The decision will vary from case to case, but 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 experiencing weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking
  • Experiencing severe bleeding that you are unable to stop with 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 other less serious and non life-threatening medical concerns, 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.

It is strongly advised 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.

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