When to visit an emergency department

Hospital emergency departments assess and treat patients who have serious injuries or illnesses.

When to dial 111

If a friend or family member needs urgent medical attention:

  • dial 111 for an ambulance.

If you’re near the hospital and the situation is serious but not life threatening, you may choose to take the person yourself in your car. (If you do this, make sure you know where the hospital’s emergency department is.)

Make sure it’s an emergency

If you’re unsure whether it’s an emergency:

  • phone Healthline: 0800 611 116.

Healthline has trained staff who will tell you what you should do.

If it’s not an emergency:

  • phone your GP and make an appointment, or
  • if it’s after hours, go to your local after-hours medical centre or phone the duty doctor (your GP answering service should tell you who to ring – or look in the green health section at the front of the White Pages).

What happens at the emergency department?

Major emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

When a patient arrives, a nurse or doctor will assess their illness or injury. They’ll decide how urgent it is and how soon it needs to be treated.

Patients are seen in the order of the seriousness of their condition (not in order that they arrive). This ensures that the people with the most serious conditions are seen first.

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