Generally, you should only visit A&E or call 999 for emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • pain that is not relieved by simple analgesia
  • acute confused state
  • persistent, severe chest pain, or
  • breathing difficulties

If an ambulance is needed, call 999, the emergency phone number in England. You can also dial 112, which is the equivalent for the European Union.

Major A&E departments offer access 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Not all hospitals have an A&E department.

At A&E a doctor or nurse will assess your condition and decide on further action. You usually have to wait before you are seen, particularly on Friday or Saturday nights. A&E departments try to see, diagnose and treat 95% of people within four hours of arrival.

In addition to A&E departments, other services such as walk-in centres and minor injury units are available. They can treat patients without an appointment. They deal with minor injuries and illnesses.