Ambulance prioritization

Just wondering if any of you knowledgable people could shed some light on this for me. Do you know if your GP sends you to hospital by ambulance, does it have a different priority than normally. Each time I have called an ambulance to my house during a severe attack, it has arrived in minutes. We live in the centre of a city.

However, the times I have gone in an ambulance from my GP it seems to have taken much longer. When I went from my GP the last time it took 50 minutes to arrive. After about 30 minutes I heard the doctor say he was going to phone back and upgrade to a ""Blue light"". Does this mean that the initial ambulance request was not an emergency one.

Was wondering whether these calls are downgraded as you are already receiving medical help from docs so would not be as important as someone else having brittle attack on their own somewhere. just wondered how it works as I don't know much about it. Always relieved to see them when they do arrive though!

11 Replies

  • I'm not sure about prioritisation from ""civvies"" as it were - although things like unconciousness, breathing difficulties and chest pains get top priority - but if you call an ambulance as a GP you usually are asked for an estimate on urgency. In our area they used to have the categories of ""Immediate"", ""Within 30 mins"", ""Within 2 hours"" or ""Within 4 hours"", to help them to prioritise their calls. Of course you can phone back an upgrade or downgrade your call, as either a civvie or a GP, which is why they always ask you to phone back if anything changes.



  • Hi karly i often go to hospital via an ambulbnce called by my gp. Here its classed as a gp emergency so 999 calls take president. I also go to a hosp which isnt locak. Consequently i have waited upto 2 hours for one. Takecare s

  • When I worked at ambulance control (early 1990s) we would get calls from GPs on the Day control desk - we only asked for priority and the medical reason and it was up to the GP to tell us any more info. Nill delay was usually treated as a Red call and handed to the 999 emergency team. otherwise they were slotted in around other emergency calls. I have never had to wait long at a GPs surgery. I think I scare them too much and they call it in as an emergency!

    Not sure if different ambulance trusts have different protocols for GPs & other health establishment based calls. Perhaps they think you are 'safe' sitting there!

    (Just read interesting scenarios on people being transported from GPs to Hospital)

    Perhaps you could ask your GP about it?

    Take care


  • i know when i have been at the dr's surgery with my children and they get taken straight away but.....

    when i have bin at home during the night the dr rings for a ambulance from my house for one of the children its not always classed as immediate collect and deliver so to speak b4 now my oldest has had to wait for over an hour b4 an ambulance will arrive with dr treating her

    also i have had a paramedic arrive at the house and stay there for nearly 2 hrs due to an ambulance not arrive for that length of time the paramedic told me we were classed as a emergency cos he was with us and treating it was a saturday night so they were trying to save the drinkers rather than the ones that actually need it to help them survive throu no fault of there own

  • When we book ambulance to transfer patients to DGH we are asked for priority. Choices being blue light, 2hrs, 3hrs, 4hrs or non-urgent (meaning whenever available). it probalby was put out as 2 hr from GP surgery cos they had doc on scene to treat you and changed to blue-light when you deteriorated.

  • I am a little shocked that GP calling 999 takes precident over everything else. I know my GP and the surgery could keep me going ok not ideal but if I am at home I would be in far more need of some medical help than if I were at my GP's surgery.


  • about 8 years ago my gp had to call for an ambulance for me after id struggled down to the surgery while suffering from an asthma the time i didnt realise just how serious it was...i was given oxygen and nebs in the surgery, the doc called an ambulance which took 45 mins to arrive..i was taken straight into resus and spent over an hour there,,then spent 6 days in hospital..was later told by the respiratory nurse at the hospital that the attack had been life threatening and id come very close to being placed on a ventilator..after that i was told by my consultant not to hesitate in calling 999 for any future attacks..ive had to do this on 2 occasions in the last year and on both occasions the ambulance arrived in less than 10 mins so my motto is ...if in doubt call an ambulance from home and youll prob find it will arrive quite quickly

  • I have done lots of ""surfing"" on this one and it seems like when a GP requests an ambulance, it is called a GP ""urgent"" and is done directly with ambulance control, not through 999 and they have to specify a time 1 hour, 2 hours or 3 hours. The ambulance people then fit this around any 999 calls that they have. The 999 calls seem to take precedent over the GP ones and they just fit the GP call in when they can. I guess many GP calls are less urgent as they have a doctor with them already. However, it could be a heart attack, anaphylaxis or severe acute asthma, where patients don't have time to wait as they need essential medications that can only be given in hospital. It seems like when this happens, GP's have started calling 999 themselves, instead of going through the direct GP-ambulance control method, as this is how they get a fast response when it is needed.

    This is the information I have found through searching the internet. if anybody has anymore info or knows anybody who works for the ambulance service, it would be good to find out. I have needed an ambulance both from home and from my GP many times and never realized that there is a different call out system. i waited nearly an hour at my GP's last time and ended up in recus when I eventually did get to hospital. My GP gave me nebs/hydrocortisone and, finally, adrenaline as a last resort as I was really struggling. It was scary to have to wait so long and I am curious as to whether it was due to the prioritisation system. if this is the case, it seems I would be better to stay at home if things aren't good and to call one from home for a faster response.

  • Yes, as I mentioned below - usually we are asked to specify a required response time ranging between 30mins to 4 hours; however in one of the situation such as you specify yourself below (or any other requiring immediate transportation to hospital) as a GP you have to phone 999 - the standard GP ambulance line can take a while to be connected, which is not something you want to be waiting around for!

  • Thanks for the info Cathbear. It kinda makes more sense now.

  • Sounds familiar! I used to get the GP calls when working at Amb control many years ago. I used to chuck the nill delay call sheets (no CAD then! ) over to the emergency dispatch and let them sort them out - otherwise we would try to fit the others in around everything else!


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