Our ambulance services are stretched.

We rely on them to help people with serious or life-threatening conditions and a range of other urgent healthcare and patient transport services. Richmond’s ambulances are already working at full capacity though, so it’s important that they are only called out when absolutely necessary.

Emergency 999 calls are prioritised into two categories to make sure life-threatening cases receive the quickest response. London ambulance services aim to reach 85% of life threatening cases within 8 minutes, and 95% within 19 minutes.

Richmond Council outline ambulance priorities as the following:


  1. Life Saving
  2. Transport of Medical Teams
  3. Paramedical Care of the Injured
  4. Establishing an Ambulance Control Point for Medical Resources
  5. Transporting of casualties to receiving hospitals.
  6. Forwarding information to receiving hospitals relating to toxic or radiation hazards and contamination of casualties.


Once you call 999, the operator will take you through a series of questions to determine the nature and seriousness of the patient’s condition. Ambulance crews will also carry out their own diagnostic tests at the scene, and can also directly admit patients to specialist units for diabetes, asthma, allergic reactions, overdoses and hear failure.


To Drive or Call An Ambulance?


We understand that it can sometimes be difficult to know whether to drive yourself, visit an alternative primary care unit or call an ambulance. Obviously, we don’t want to see anyone behind the wheel with a condition that may put anyone in danger on the roads. In many cases, though, it is perfectly fine for a friend or relative to drive you to hospital, if that’s the most appropriate course of action.

In cases where a 999 call or an ambulance is not necessary, there are a number of options at your disposal, including self-care at home, talking to your local pharmacist, visiting or calling your GP or an out-of-hours service, calling NHS 111 or attending a minor injuries unit. Depending on the nature of your condition, any of these could be a better option for you, and could free up a valuable ambulance for someone whose need is greater.

NHS guidance on the use of ambulances is as follows:


“A 999 call should only be made in a genuine emergency. To ensure seriously ill and injured patients are treated as quickly as possible, people whose call is not serious should consider other healthcare options”

NHS Choices


What is a ‘Genuine Emergency’?


A ‘genuine emergency’, as outlined by the NHS, is deemed to be a situation where the patient is in a serious or life-threatening condition, and needs to be treated immediately, at the scene. In this case, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

For anyone who is tempted to call an ambulance in order to be seen quicker once you arrive at hospital, you are out of luck! Arriving in an ambulance doesn’t necessarily mean you will be seen any quicker at your local A & E – all patients are assessed on a case-by-case basis and prioritised accordingly.

If you need to see a GP or nurse urgently or out of surgery hours about your medical situation, there are a number of services available to you in the Richmond area. Click here for a list of all available out-of-hours surgeries.