Emergency healthcare

Before you find yourself in a situation where medical treatment, help or advice is needed urgently, it helps to be prepared and to know what is classed as an emergency, the types of services on offer and which one is best suited to your needs.

Emergency department icon

Deciding if you need an emergency service

It is often very obvious if someone is seriously ill and needs immediate emergency care.

To help you decide, an emergency, critical or life-threatening situation may involve:

Things to remember in an emergency

There are a few things that you should remember in any emergency to help you to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently.

They are:

  • stay calm, shout for help
  • you may need to get someone to telephone 999 - make sure they know where the ambulance has to come to and that they have some details about the person who is injured or ill
  • don't put yourself in danger - if someone has been electrocuted, make sure you switch off the power supply before touching them
  • do everything you can to help the person
  • don't give the person anything to eat, drink or smoke
  • don't stick anything in their mouth
  • follow the instructions the ambulance service call handler may give you

The best way to help a person very often depends on what is wrong with them.

Sometimes, the quickest way to help is to take the person to the nearest Emergency Department (ED), depending on the area.

However, even in an area where your hospital is fairly close, you should call an ambulance and not move the patient if you think they:

  • may have hurt their back or neck
  • have any other injury that may be made worse by moving them
  • the person has severe chest pain or difficulty breathing

If it's obvious that you or someone else needs emergency treatment, dial 999 free from any public or private telephone and ask for the ambulance service.

Your local Emergency Department

Important things to remember about your Emergency Department


  • you should not go to an Emergency Department as an alternative to your GP
  • calling 999 for an ambulance does not get you to the top of an ED queue - patients are seen based on medical need, not who gets to the hospital first

Emergency Department waiting times

You will be seen in the Emergency Department based on your medical condition which is assessed by a member of staff when you first arrive.

If you decide to go to the Emergency Department, the link below shows the current average waiting time to see the nurse or doctor who will treat you at those participating hospitals across Northern Ireland.

Dental treatment

Few dental emergencies require out-of-hours intervention, but if it is needed your local HSC Trust will have made arrangements.

Any dental care service provided by them will only be for cases requiring urgent treatment that cannot wait until the next working day on which a dental practice is open.


If you have had unprotected sex and wish to get emergency contraception, also called the 'morning after pill', you can get this from either a doctor's surgery, a local Family Planning Clinic or a pharmacist.

Mental health

If you:

  • are having emotional or mental problems that are of immediate concern
  • need to talk to someone about another person's behaviour, at any time of the night or day

you can call either:

More useful links

Share this page


Your comments are anonymous and can’t be responded to - if you would like a reply, use the feedback form.

Your comments
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum. Don't include personal or financial information.