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When Should A First Aider Call 999?


A properly trained first aider can be the difference between a minor injury and serious harm or death, but professional medical attention is still required in many situations. 

Here, we will discuss a crucial aspect of first aid: when should a first aider call 999? Knowing when to make that emergency call can be a matter of life and death. 

The Importance of Calling 999

Calling the emergency services in the UK can be a matter of life or death. It ensures that professional help arrives quickly and provides the necessary medical assistance. In some cases, the dispatcher may also provide guidance over the phone until help arrives. In many situations with a serious injury or illness, the role of the first aider is to provide care until the medical professionals arrive.

However, not all first aid situations will require you to call the emergency services. For non-life-threatening situations and situations where the patient’s condition is in no danger of worsening, consider using alternative resources like the NHS non-emergency number (111).

Should I Attempt First Aid Before Calling 999?

In general, it’s best to call 999 before attempting first aid, especially in critical situations so that the paramedics can arrive as quickly as possible. If you need to start first aid immediately, have someone else call while you do so. The emergency dispatcher can provide guidance on what to do while help is on the way.

In What Situations Should a First Aider Call 999?

When Someone Is Seriously Ill

If you come across someone who is seriously ill and requires immediate medical attention, do not hesitate to call 999. The symptoms of serious illness can vary widely but may include severe pain, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or loss of consciousness.

When Someone Is Seriously Injured

Serious injuries demand prompt medical attention. If you encounter a person with severe injuries, such as deep cuts, broken bones, or significant bleeding, call 999 immediately.

When Someone’s Life Is at Risk

In any situation where someone’s life is at risk, calling 999 is a must. This includes instances like heart attacks, strokes, severe allergic reactions, or any condition where immediate medical intervention is critical.

CPR on an Adult

Performing CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) can be a life-saving skill. When it comes to adults, the protocol is clear: if you are the only person present and need to perform CPR, call for help immediately before starting. Every minute counts in a cardiac arrest situation.

Unconsciousness Due to a Blocked Airway

In some cases, a person may become unconscious due to a blocked airway. If you encounter someone in this state, start by providing one minute of CPR before calling 999. Ensuring that the airway is clear is paramount in this situation.

Calling 999 and Starting CPR

When in doubt about whether to call 999, it’s always better to make the call. The emergency services are equipped to assess the situation and provide guidance. If CPR is needed, they will instruct you on how to perform it effectively until help arrives.

What Information Should I Provide When Calling 999?

When calling 999, provide clear and concise information about the situation, the location, and any specific details about the person’s condition. Follow the dispatcher’s instructions closely.


In emergencies, timing is critical. Calling 999 when someone is seriously ill, injured, or their life is at risk can make all the difference. As a responsible first aider, knowing when to make that call is part of your duty to save lives.

If you are interested in learning first aid so that you can take charge in an emergency situation and help to save lives, then please get in touch to book a place on one of our courses.