Alternatives to 999

999 services are very busy and we must make sure we’re helping those most in need.

There are lots of alternatives for medical advice when it isn’t a life threatening emergency.

A mother and child are sitting on a sofa inside a pharmacy.

NHS 111

Please use the online 111 service first. This will take you through a few questions to suggest your best option.

When to call 111 instead

Call 111 to speak to someone if you need to:

  • discuss complex medical problems
  • discuss worries about a long-term condition
  • get end-of-life care, or report a death
  • report child protection or vulnerable adult concerns

Other ways to contact 111 if you have a hearing problem or need help in other languages

111 phonelines are very busy so there may be a delay in your call being answered.

Accident and emergency departments

If someone needs emergency care, but the situation is not life threatening, please consider taking the patient to an A&E department by car or taxi. If you are unsure call 111 for advice. If you do need an ambulance 111 will organise it.

There is more information on the NHS UK website about when to call 999 and when to go to A&E.

Urgent treatment centres

Many urgent health problems can be dealt with by an urgent treatment centre or minor injuries unit. Some centres have x-ray and can treat injuries like broken bones. These might be located on a hospital site or alongside other NHS community services.

To find an urgent care service click here (you can set the search distance to see more options).

Services and opening hours do vary, so check the details before travelling.

General practice

GP teams can offer a range of urgent and non-urgent support. Options can include telephone consultations and urgent appointments with a range of different clinicians.

We know all NHS services are busy, but please try your GP team for all general medical support.


Your local pharmacy can offer a wide range of advice on minor illnesses and injuries. Many are open evenings and weekends and have a consultation room to speak to a pharmacist in private.

To find a pharmacy click here.


Dental problems can be very painful, but they are not 999 emergencies.

If you need urgent dental treatment or advice, please contact your usual dental practice in the first instance.

Alternatively visit the NHS 111 service online or call 111 which can put you in touch with an urgent dental service.

If you can feel dental trouble starting, get it looked at early, so it doesn’t turn into an urgent painful problem.


Make sure you always have a stock of essential medicines at home, such as painkillers, upset stomach relievers, antihistamines, plasters and bandages. Speak to your local pharmacy about what you need.

This will help you look after yourself and loved ones if you need to treat any injury or illness.

Remember to keep any medicine in a safe place and well out of the reach of children and check medicines regularly to make sure they are within their use by dates.

In your area

For more information on alternatives to 999 in your area visit:

When should I call 999?

You should call 999 when someone is seriously ill or injured and you think their life is at risk, for example:

  • a suspected heart attack or stroke
  • a traumatic head injury
  • persistent severe chest pains
  • loss of consciousness
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reaction or burn

Find out more about what to expect and how to help us if it is an emergency.