When to Call for an Ambulance

Winter overload of A&E creates a log jam where there isn’t enough hospital space to bring in emergency patients off the ambulances quickly. So ambulances are stuck waiting at the hospitals to off-load patients before they can respond to the next call.

So make extra sure that you really need an ambulance before you call 999/112, by carefully checking the person’s condition. If someone’s collapsed, don’t automatically phone for help as they may be asleep, fainted or under the influence and not need the ambulance service.

What to do if you find someone collapsed?

Have a good look around, see if there’s any obvious reason they’re on the floor. An electric cable nearby or a toppled chair are pretty good indicators of what might have happened.

Make sure it’s safe to approach them. If there is a cable don’t touch them until you’re sure the power has been disconnected and it’s safe to do so.

Approach from their feet, checking there’s no immediate danger to you.

Try to get a response from them, by asking loudly, “can you hear me”, and shaking their foot or shoulders.

If they don’t react, shout for help, then make sure they’re on their back and start checking them over.

Check they’re breathing

It’s important to open the casualty’s airway, making sure they can breathe.

Open their mouth and look for any obstruction, with one hand press firmly down on their forehead, at the same time using two fingers under their chin lift the head backwards, allowing their mouth to open, this will ensure they have a clear airway.

Next place the side of your face close to their mouth, so that you’re looking down their chest.

Watch for the rise and fall of the chest, listen for the sound of breathing and feel for breath on your cheek, do this for about 10 seconds allowing enough time for 2 normal breaths.

If you can’t detect any signs of breathing, it is time to get your helper, or if you’re on your own, phone for an ambulance and start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) immediately. This British Heart Foundation video shows you how to administer CPR.

If possible, put the call on speaker phone so you and your helper can answer any questions and hear any instructions.

The call handler will ask you basic questions about where you are and what’s happened.

Tell them that you have an unresponsive casualty who is not breathing.

They’ll tell you to begin CPR, instructing you what to do.

Use an AED
An AED Training unit.

They’ll also tell your helper about the nearest AED (automated external defibrillator), giving the access code, and advising the expected ambulance response time.

It’s essential to keep giving CPR and ideally giving rescue breaths too, if you’re happy to do so.

You must continue with CPR compression until professional help arrives, or the casualty makes definite signs of life, such as pushing you away.

When the defibrillator arrives, tell your helper to unpack it and follow the instructions. You must continue CPR uninterrupted.

Having the confidence to act in an emergency

If you’d like to learn how to perform CPR and use an AED, book one of our Basic Life Support Courses or qualify as an Emergency First Aider (it looks great on your C.V. too).


Mike Samuels
CPR First Aid Training



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