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Health Emergencies for Expats in the United Kingdom

Submitted: July 2013

Emergency numbers

The official UK emergency number is 999.

You may also dial 112, which is the European emergency number. On a North American mobile phone, 911 may also redirect to the British authorities. 999 and 112 emergency calls are generally free.

75% of 999 calls receive an emergency response within eight minutes, and an ambulance is 95% likely to come within 19 minutes if it is needed for a life-threatening situation. The NHS has air ambulances if you are in a remote area.

For other urgent health issues (not life-threatening), you may dial 111 in most parts of England. Calls to 111 from landline and mobile phones are also free. If you are not covered by 111 or are in Wales, dial 0845 4647. Uncovered areas may be found here. In Scotland, you may contact NHS 24 by calling 08454 242424 (24-hour service), or by visiting their website.

You may call 111 if:

  • You need medical assistance fast but this is not a matter of life or death
  • You think you need to go to a public urgent healthcare service
  • You have no doctor to call or you don’t know who to call, or
  • You need any health information or reassurance about what to do.

A text system is available if you have any difficulties with phone calls. If you need to contact 111 advisers by text messaging, dial 18001 111. If you think you need an interpreter, tell which language you wish to speak.

111 advisers are medically trained staff, and they may arrange to send you an ambulance if they think you need one.

Emergency units

If your problem isn’t minor, you should go to a hospital. If you have private health insurance (See Health Insurance for Expats in the UK), it might be riskier to go to a private hospital as very few private hospitals have an intensive care unit (“Level 3 critical care”).

If you need major trauma care, i.e. you have a very serious injury such as severe gunshot wounds or a road accident, you may need immediate treatment involving a lot of equipment and specialists. Major trauma are so uncommon (less than once a week per hospital) that all hospitals are not necessarily equipped enough to address them, and you might need to go to a major trauma centre. English major trauma centres can be found by clicking here.

Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments of NHS hospitals are the main emergency units in the UK. This is the place you need to go to if you have a serious injury or illness. If it is not immediately life-threatening, the NHS advises to call your GP or the GP out-of-hours service first. Not all hospitals have an A&E department. See Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in the UK

For minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes, you can simply visit an NHS walk-in centre (WiC), an Urgent Care Centre (UCC) or a Minor Injuries Unit (MIU). Any member of the public may come without appointment and you don’t need to be registered. These units are neither designed nor equipped for serious health problems, and their staff members are trained for certain minor emergencies only. Not all MIUs and WiCs are qualified to provide medical treatment for children. If you wish to check if your local MIU, WiC or UCC is able to address your problem, call 111 (if you are covered) or 0845 4647 in England and Wales, or 08454 24 24 24 in Scotland.

Emergency for dental treatment costs £18 (Band 1 charge), even if more than one visit is required. An appointment in your local area can be quickly arranged if you call one of the above emergency numbers.

 

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