999 Celebrates its 80TH Anniversary

Friday, 30 June, 2017

SOUTH Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is joining in the celebrations as the 999 emergency service telephone number celebrates its 80th anniversary. They are also reminding people to use the emergency 999 service wisely.

First introduced in the London area on 30 June 1937, the UK’s 999 number is the world’s oldest emergency call telephone service. The system was introduced following a fire in which five women were killed. A government inquiry was launched and soon after the 999 service was introduced.

It became available to the south west in 1946 and then to the entire country only when all the telephone exchanges where automated in 1976.

In 2015/16 our call handlers at our clinical hubs in Bristol and Exeter dealt with more than 911,000 incidents. So far in 2017 call handlers have dealt with more than 430,000 incidents. The busiest county is Devon with more than 101,000 incidents.

Across the SWASFT patch in 2017 almost 13% of our patients have been triaged and treated appropriately over the phone without the need to send a valuable ambulance resource to the scene.

Incidents in 2017 broken down by county:

Devon   101,684

Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire72,720

Dorset  66,121

Wiltshire              57,863

Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly   47,489

Gloucestershire                43,421

Somerset            41,484


*Figures correct as of 10am on Monday, June 26, 2017.

As demand for the 999 ambulance service continues to grow it is more important than ever to use the service wisely. Only call 999 in an emergency. Examples of when to call include:

  • If the patient is unconscious or not breathing
  • Has a penetrating injury to the neck, chest, abdomen or thigh
  • Has had a severe allergic reaction
  • Has uncontrolled bleeding
  • Is having an asthma attack
  • Has severe chest pain (heart attack or cardiac arrest)
  • Has taken an overdose
  • Has been submerged in water for more than one minute
  • Has fallen more than 10 feet
  • Traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

If the situation is not immediately life threating call 111 and they will be able to direct you to the most appropriate service. You can also contact your GP, pharmacy or minor injuries unit.

Chief Executive of SWASFT, Ken Wenman, said: “I am proud of our 999 service here in the south west and across the UK. All of the emergency services do an amazing job every single day.

“Staff at SWASFT are at the heart of the 999 service and work tirelessly to deliver the best possible care to our patients. They do an amazing job, often in difficult and challenging circumstances.

“SWASFT often leads from the front. We are consistently the best performing ambulance service for treating patients outside of an emergency department and more recently we have lead the way with the Ambulance Response Programme.

“Our dedicated and hard-working clinical hub staff are a real credit to the NHS and the 999 service and I am sure the 999 service will continue to grow and develop for another 80 years and beyond.”

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