Snodland Community Responders


The 999 System - Everything you need to know:

Quick Links to the sections

When to Call 999
The 999 Call
The Response
Who comes
Call Categories
Help Us Find You

When to call 999 :

We're there if you need us but sometimes there might be another way.

We frequently read in the press about abuse of the ambulance service and the other emergency services....and yes, it's true, some people do call us inappropriately for very minor problems and of course, some calls are plain hoaxes. Apart from wasting time the problem is that it may delay an ambulance getting to someone who really needs it. Also, this sort of publicity may deter callers who have a genuine need. This is the last thing we want.

If you have genuine concerns then err on the side of caution and call us. You may be undecided whether to dial 999 or seek other help. We hope our guide will help, but if you are in doubt we will always respond.

Other options you might like to consider include NHS Direct (Tel: 0845 4647), your GP or their out-of-hours service. Pharmacists are also a good source of advice for any queries about your medication or minor ailments. Your local A&E hospital will deal with injuries according to need regardless of whether you arrive by ambulance or other means.

For more detailed information on your choices visit our choose well page

In a life-threatening emergency

Always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk.

SECAmb has issued the following advice on when to call 999:

If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following you must dial 999 for an ambulance:

You should also call for an ambulance if:

  • you think the patient's illness or injury is life-threatening
  • you think the illness or injury may become worse, or even life-threatening on the way to the hospital
  • moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury
  • the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel
  • traffic conditions could cause a delay in getting the person to hospital and time could be critical


Take into account what has happened to the patient as well as how bad he looks and feels, e.g. many people get themselves out of badly damaged vehicles at road accidents saying that they are OK but could, for example, have sustained a potentially serious neck injury.

When it's not a life-threatening emergency

If it is not a life-threatening emergency and you, or the person you are with, do not need immediate medical attention, consider other options before you dial 999:

  • Look after yourself or the patient at home. If you cannot stay at home, see if family or friends are able to help.
  • Talk to your local pharmacist.
  • Visit or call your GP.
  • Call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
  • Visit the NHS Choices website.
  • Make your own way to your local A&E department, walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre. (Arriving in an ambulance does not necessarily mean you will be treated more quickly

Choose the best treatment for your needs - choose well. It allows us to make sure that we are able to help the people who need us the most.


Dialling 999:

When and how to dial 999 - how we will deal with your call

In a medical emergency, you should stay calm and dial 999

First, you will be connected to a telephone operator who will ask you which of the emergency services you require and then you will be connected to the ambulance Emergency Dispatch Centre. Your call will be answered "Ambulance emergency". You will then be asked to:

  • confirm the telephone number you are calling from? (this should be the best number that we can call you back on if required, and the closest if you are not with the patient)
  • what's the location/address of the emergency?

  • what's the problem, tell me exactly what happened?

Our Emergency Medical Dispatcher will then need some additional details and will ask:

  • are you with the patient now?
  • how many people are hurt/sick?
  • the patient's age? (best guess if you have seen the patient)
  • male or female?
  • is he/she conscious?
  • is he/she breathing?

You will then be asked a sequence of questions to help us best determine the condition of the patient, any hazards, and the response required. Please answer these questions as best you can.

Our disptatcher can enter 'unknown' against any of these questions but some questions such as conscious state and breathing status will be pursued to ensure the correct assessment is gained.

These questions normally take no longer than 60 seconds and they help us to provide the correct first aid instructions to you.

Further location details may then be required.


Emergency Responses - What are the options? :

Once a 999 call is made into the Emergency Dispatch Centre and the information above has been taken, the Ambulance Service can respond in one of a number of ways:
Emergency (A&E) ambulances
Paramedic Ambulance
Frontline emergency ambulances with a crew of two, one of which should ideally be a paramedic, respond to the majority of 999 emergencies and GP urgent calls.

The service operates about 300 front-line ambulances and is constantly up-grading the fleet, including the latest vehicles equipped with tail-lifts.

Single Response Vehicles (SRV)
Solo Responder
SRVs are usually single-manned by a Paramedic. They are used for making initial assessments of patients and situations and where extra help is needed quickly. They are a flexible resource and in some areas motorbikes are used for this role.

Emergency Responses - Who will come? :

Image of an ECSWdImage of a paramedicImage of a paramedic practitionerImage of a CCPImage of a resouce dispatcher
Community Responders

These are mainly members of the public who have been trained by the service to "hold the fort" until the ambulance arrives but may also be off-duty members of staff or colleagues from another emergency service. They are able to deliver treatments that are time-critical (where seconds count) such as defibriallation. There are several schemes accross our area and they have been an enormous success with many lives saved to their credit.

Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) and Emergency Care Support Workers (ECSWs)

Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) and Emergency Care Support Workers (ECSWs) - drive ambulances under emergency conditions and support the work of qualified ambulance technicians and paramedics. We have 33 Emergency Care Assistants (ECAs) and 109 Emergency Care Support Workers (ECSWs)


Technicians - respond to emergency calls as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. They support paramedics during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients and during the journey to hospital. We have 957 technicians


Paramedics – respond to emergency calls and deal with complex non–emergency hospital admissions, discharges and transfers. They work as part of a rapid response unit, usually with support from an ambulance technician or ECA or ECSW. They meet people’s need for immediate care or treatment. We have 550 paramedics.

Paramedic Practitioners (PP)

Paramedic Practitioners (PPs) - are paramedics who have undergone additional education and training to equip them with greater patient assessment and management skills. They are able to diagnose a wide range of conditions and are skilled to treat many minor injuries and illnesses. PPs are also able to “signpost” care – referring patients to specialists in the community such as GPs, community nurses or social care professionals. They can also refer patients to hospital specialists, thus avoiding the need to be seen in A&E first. We currently have 52 qualified paramedic practitioners plus an additional 60 student paramedic practitioners.

Critical Care Paramedics (CCP)

Critical Care Paramedics (CCPs) - are paramedics who have undergone additional education and training to work in the critical care environment, both pre-hospitally and by undertaking Intensive Care transfers between hospitals. Often working alongside doctors at the scene, they can treat patients suffering from critical illness or injury, providing intensive support and therapy, and ensuring the patient is taken rapidly and safely to a hospital that is able to treat their complex needs. They are able to assess and diagnose illness and injuries and treat patients using more powerful drugs and use equipment on scene that up to now was only used in hospital. We have 22 critical care paramedics (including five seconded to the air ambulance), with a further eight student critical care paramedics.

Emergency Dispatch Centre staff

Emergency Dispatch Centre staff – more than 500 staff work in the Trust’s three Emergency Dispatch Centres in a variety of roles including Emergency Call Operators, Dispatchers, Duty Dispatch Managers and Clinical Desk staff. These staff are responsible for receiving every one of the emergency calls received from the Trust, providing support and clinical advice to callers as needed and co-ordinating the most appropriate response to send to the patient.

Air Ambulance
Kent Air Ambulance Logo
We have air support from two helicopters. They can be asked to assist at any incident where they might be needed such as inaccessible terrain or where a very fast evacuation to hospital is preferable to an ambulance journey by road. One helicopter, H900, is operated jointly with the police and the other is provided by Kent Air Ambulance Trust who are at present raising funds for another aircraft .

Emergency Medical Support

We enjoy support in this area from two voluntary organisations - SIMCAS and BASICS. Both utilise doctors who have completed specialist training to enable them to help patients in the pre-hospital situation. They are mostly GPs with a special interest in this subject. Although they are only used occasionally, they are invaluable when a doctor's skills are needed.


Call Categorisation - How and Why calls are prioritsed:

All ambulance calls in the UK are categorised into three broad types, emergency or 999 calls, urgent calls, routine calls.

Emergency or 999 calls
Almost all emergency calls are dealt with by a 'blue-light' response. The only exception to this is where we have been asked to make a discreet approach for clinical reasons or where we are satisfied that there is no immediate clinical urgency. (See Category C below.)
H M Government (through the Department of Health) sets standards and targets for each ambulance service to achieve. 999 call are sub-divided into three categories.

Category A (Red Calls)
Category A calls are those life-threatening conditions where the speed of response may be critical in saving life or improving the outcome for the patient, e.g. heart attack, serious bleeding, etc.

Every effort is made to get a responder to these incidents as quickly as possible. Ideally this would be an ambulance every time. However, on some occasions (particularly in outlying areas) a first responder will be dispatched whilst an ambulance is traveling to the call.

A first responder might be a member of staff who has made themselves available outside of normal working hours or a member of a Community Response Scheme. All such responders are trained to deliver life-saving skills e.g. defibrillation, pending the arrival of the ambulance.

Category A standard: 75% of all Category A calls should be reached within 8 minutes of the call being made. if the first response is not a fully-crewed ambulance then an ambulance should arrive within 19 minutes.

Category C calls are non life-threatening conditions. These are generally assistance calls in which someone needs help - perhaps to get up following a fall where no injury has been sustained - or where a minor or non-clinical issue is the prime cause for the call.

Although the Service will always try to help and at least give appropriate advice, it should be remembered that Category C calls may not warrant the attendance of the ambulance service.

An urgent call can only be requested by a doctor (usually a GP) or a midwife. The response is tailored to each individual patient's need as determined by the doctor requesting the ambulance.

It is important to appreciate that although the patient is often termed an 'emergency admission' as far as the hospital is concerned, it is not neccessarily dealt with as a 999 call by the ambulance service. In other words a doctor may arrange an 'emergency admission' to hospital but give the ambulance service two hours or more to carry out the journey.

The standard is to get 95% of patients to the hospital within 15 minutes of the time specified by the doctor when booking the ambulance.

Routine calls
Are booked days, or even weeks, in advance. They are usually carried out by Patient Transport Services of the Trust although occasionally an emergency ambulance may be involved.
These calls are generally for taking people to and from out-patient or day hospital patients when no other method of transport is possible.


How to help us find you quickly:

Advice on how to help the community responder and ambulance crew locate you - also some things you could do today which will help if we ever have to respond to your address.

Ambulance & Car on Road outside house

Our ongoing project is to try and get the local community thinking what they can do in the event of an emergency, or what might aid the ambulance crews, and us, in finding your location.

There are a number of things that you can do to help us find you quickly:

Houses with names and numbers, make sure the signs are large and legible. That they are clearly visible from the road and you can see them in daylight or at night. (Keeping them from being obscured by bushes or trees as well.) This is the cause of many delays. There is an ongoing campaign trying to address this issue.

Finally, if you belong to the Data-Link system (medical details in film container in your fridge), always keep it up to date. To find out more about Data-Link, contact your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme

The same applies to large estates, where house numbers and roads do not follow in an obvious order.

Help us find you.. it could mean the difference between life and death!

These are real problems we face, which if resolved can help the emergency services get to the patient much quicker.

More information visit the secamb website here