If you think you or someone else is having a heart emergency, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

What to do in a heart emergency

Phone 999 immediately if:

You or someone else has symptoms like:

  • central chest pain or discomfort in the chest that doesn’t go away – it may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing
  • pain that radiates down the left arm, or both arms, or to the neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • unconsciousness
  • seizures or fitting
  • difficulty breathing (snoring or rasping)
  • rapid heart beat
  • low or undetectable heart beat
  • chest pain and breathlessness, nausea, sweating or coughing up blood

What to do for a patient whilst waiting for an ambulance

Before an ambulance arrives, you can help paramedics by doing your best to follow this advice:

  • if you’re outside, stay with the patient until help arrives
  • phone 999 again if the patient’s condition worsens
  • phone 999 again if your location changes
  • if you’re phoning from home or work, ask someone to open the doors and tell ambulance staff where they’re needed
  • stay calm – the Scottish Ambulance Service is there to help you

What is a heart emergency?

Heart emergencies include:

Phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you think you or someone else is experiencing any of these heart emergencies.

What to do if you think someone is having a heart attack

  1. Once you’ve phoned 999, ask the patient to sit and rest until the ambulance arrives.
  2. If the patient isn’t allergic to aspirin and there’s some nearby, they can chew 1 tablet (300mg).
  3. Stay with the patient until the ambulance arrives.
  4. When the paramedics arrive, tell them if the patient has taken aspirin.

What to do if you think someone is having a cardiac arrest

  1. Phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if someone stops breathing, loses consciousness or doesn’t respond to stimulation.
  2. After you’ve phoned for an ambulance, the call handler will talk you through how to do chest compressions.
  3. If there’s more than one person with the patient, someone can collect a defibrillator for the patient if there’s one nearby.

What to do if you think someone is having an angina attack

  1. Tell the patient to stop what they’re doing and sit down.
  2. Ensure the patient takes one dose of their glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray or tablets. After doing this, wait 5 minutes.
  3. If the pain or breathlessness continue, the patient should take a second dose of GTN. After this, wait another 5 minutes.
  4. If the pain or breathlessness don’t ease, phone 999.
  5. If the patient isn’t allergic to aspirin and there’s some nearby, they can chew 1 tablet (300mg).
  6. When the paramedics arrive, tell them if the patient has taken aspirin.

Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland Advice Line

If you’ve performed CPR on someone or you have seen someone getting CPR, you may find yourself struggling to process what’s happened.

Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) have an Advice Line that can help.

The Advice Line has trained healthcare professionals who will listen to you. They’ll help you process what you’ve experienced and provide advice and support.

Further information on the CHSS Advice Line


Last updated:
02 July 2024