How Do I Get Help in an Emergency

UK - Emergency Services - Fire Brigade
••• London Fire Brigade. The emergency number 999 is for ambulance, police and fire. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Question: How do I get help in an emergency?

What if I need a doctor or have to call the fire or police department in the UK? Where do I turn in an emergency?

Answer: The emergency telephone number for all the main emergency services in the UK - Police, Fire and Ambulance - is 999. In March 2014 a new number for medical information, 111, was introduced for urgent but not life threatening medical advice. See more about using 111 below.

Other medical emergencies

There are several situations where you may need medical advice before or instead of calling emergency services. If you are taken ill with a medical emergency that doesn't require ambulance services or paramedics you can:

  • Walk in to any GP's office (they are known as GP's surgeries in the UK) during office hours. Most of a surgery's doctors will be handling booked appointments but there will usually be an on-call doctor to talk to.
  • Go to a walk-in emergency medical center. You can usually find one of theseĀ  at main rail stations and airports - they are run privately and charge fees but generally you can just walk in without an appointment. Medicentre is a brand around London. The National Health (NHS) also runs walk-in medical centers, usually staffed by nurses and often part of hospital complexes. As with all NHS services available to visitors, only emergency treatment is free at the point of delivery. If you need a prescription, a follow-up visit or a hospital admission, you will need to pay or present your insurance documents.
  • Visit a hospital emergency room. Hospital emergency rooms are called Accident and Emergency Units or A&E Departments in the UK. People may also refer to that part of a hospital as Casualty. again, emergency medical treatment delivered in A&E or Casualty is free regardless of your nationality or country of residence. But if you are admitted or asked to come back for a clinic visit, you will have to pay full charges Find out more about access rules for free NHS treatment.

111 When you're not sure where to turn

Phone 111 (free from mobile phones or landlines) for urgent medical advice in non-life threatening situations. The trained advisor, supported by nurses and paramedics, will talk you through a questionnaire to determine what to do next. The recommendations that might be made range from providing you with a phone number to call, transferring you directly to appropriate medial help, advising you about out-of-hours doctors and late night pharmacies or making arrangements for an ambulance if that is required.

If you're not eligible for free medical care under the NHS, you will, again, have to pay for any follow on services. But you won't have to pay for the advice you receive from this phone line or for the phone call itself. If you're a visitor, it really is the quickest way to find the medical help you might need.

Insider Tip

Some hotels use private emergency doctors for guests who become ill while visiting the UK. This kind of doctor's visit can be costly and your insurance may not fully cover the expense. Instead, try to get to a nearby A&E unit where initial emergency treatment is free.