How to Get Help in an Emergency in the UK

UK - Emergency Services - Fire Brigade

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If you need a doctor or have to call the fire or police department in the United Kingdom, review this information prior to your trip so you'll know where to turn in an emergency.

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.

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 into 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.

Dial 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 medical 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.