Emergency Ambulances - How we prioritise your call

The call taker at the ambulance service uses a computer system. The computer system decides how urgent your call is, what priority it is, and what help you need.

All 999 calls are given a colour code – red, amber or green – like traffic lights.The colour code that your call is given depends on what is wrong with the patient.

The codes help the ambulance service know how serious the problem is, how quickly to send help, and what kind of help is needed.

The most serious and life-threatening situations have the highest priority. This is to make sure we get to the sickest patients first.

Red calls - Immediately life-threatening situation

We try to respond to life threatening situations within 8 minutes. Our ambulances will use flashing blue lights and sirens.

Red calls are things like not breathing, being unconscious or severe blood loss.

Amber calls - Life-threatening or serious

We will respond as soon as we can in order of priority.

Amber calls are things like chest pain

Green calls - Not serious or life-threatening

You might speak to a nurse or a paramedic, who can assess your call and give you advice about where you could go, or how to look after yourself at home. We might ask you to phone a doctor, or go to the pharmacy.

If an ambulance is needed but it is not urgent or life threatening (a green call) you could have a much longer wait. Green calls are things like a small burn or a nose bleed.

If an ambulance is on its way to a patient, and we get another call that is a higher priority, we may divert that ambulance to the other call. This makes sure that the people who need our help the most, get our help soonest. This can mean that some people could wait longer than they might expect.

If it is safe, and if you can, we might suggest that you find alternative transport to hospital. At times when the service is very busy, you might get to the hospital sooner.

If you decide to find your way to the hospital, you will need to tell the call handler or phone 999 back to inform them you no longer need the ambulance.

Travelling to hospital in an ambulance does not mean that you will get treated quicker when you arrive at the hospital. You join the queue of people needing help in the hospital and will be seen in order of priority.