NHS Ambulance Trust Information

There are currently 11 NHS organisations in England who provide emergency ambulance services. NHS ambulance trusts assist people in life threatening and serious medical emergencies. They also provide a range of other urgent and planned healthcare and transport services.

Over the last ten years, the number of emergency calls (999 calls) has almost doubled. In 1995/6, 3.16 million emergency calls were received, compared with over 6 million in 2006/7.

Due to the significant increase in the number of emergency calls received over the past decade, the ambulance trusts have made big improvements in response times to 999 calls. There have also been improvements in training, quality, and range of care provided, vehicle standards, equipment and technology.

On 1 July 2006, significant changes were made to the way the ambulance service is organised. The number of ambulance trusts covering England was reduced from 31 to 13. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still continue to have their own separate ambulance services.

A healthcare professional, such as a GP, midwife, or nurse, may provide authorisation for you to travel to hospital in an ambulance in order to receive treatment. As well as providing patients with pre-arranged transport to and from hospital, the ambulance service responds to:
major incidents,
emergency 999 calls,
doctors' urgent admission requests, and high-dependency and urgent inter-hospital transfers.

The ambulance service now has the ability, skills and resources to bring care directly to people in their homes or at the scene of an incident. The continual increase in the number of emergency calls received by the ambulance service has meant that it has had to become more efficient in assessing which patients need the most urgent care.

Emergency 999 calls

Emergency 999 calls are prioritised into three categories to ensure that the most life threatening cases receive the quickest response. The three categories are as follows:

Category A calls which are prioritised as immediately life threatening. The ambulance service aims to respond to 75% of category A calls within eight minutes or less.
Category B calls which are serious but not immediately life threatening. The ambulance service aims to respond to category B calls within 14 minutes in urban areas and within 19 minutes, 95% of the time.
Category C calls are neither serious or life threatening. Standards for handling these calls are set locally.
Urgent calls from GPs and other health professionals, requesting ambulance transport for their patients, are prioritised in the same way. For GP urgent calls, the ambulance service aims to arrive at hospital within 15 minutes of the time stipulated by the GP.

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 equipped to provide treatment at the scene of an accident, or a traditional ambulance. Many trusts also use community first responders to complement the ambulance response. First responders provide basic first aid at the scene until the ambulance arrives.


In addition to dealing with emergency care, NHS ambulance trusts provide a range of other emergency, urgent and planned healthcare and transport services. This includes non-emergency Patient Transport Services (PTS). PTS is the provision of free transport for patients with a medical need for transport to, from and between healthcare providers. In many areas, the NHS ambulance trust provides this service but, in some areas, it is also provided by the private or voluntary sector. The NHS also provides financial support for the costs of transport for those patients on low income.

If you have a medical condition that is not serious, you can call NHS Direct on 0845 4647. An experienced nurse will ask you about your condition and advise you about the most appropriate service for you. They may also give you advice about how best to care for yourself.

Service Description
Step by Step guide to dialling 999:

Dial 999 immediately for emergencies such as:
chest pain,
difficulty in breathing,
loss of consciousness,
severe loss of blood,
severe burns and scalds,
fitting / convulsions,
drowning, and
severe allergic reactions.
The advice below outlines what you should do when making a 999 call:

Before phoning, make sure that you know the location of the emergency and the telephone number that you are calling from.

The first person to speak to you will be the telephone operator, who will ask whether you require the ambulance, fire, or police service.
Once you have requested an ambulance, your call will be connected to the Ambulance Dispatch Centre
You will be asked where you want the ambulance to go. An ambulance will be sent as soon as the location is known.

You should stay on the line as the call handler will ask you some questions about the incident, including details about the condition of the patient or patients. The information you provide will be relayed to the ambulance crew.
Do not hang up until instructed to do so. The call handler may provide advice about how you can help the patient, and you will also be required to confirm the location and number you are calling from.