How we work
Wellington Free Ambulance is the only emergency ambulance service in Greater Wellington and Wairarapa and the only ones in the country who are free. We look after 1 in 10 of your friends and family every year, ensuring we provide the best possible care to our patients.
We run a 24/7 emergency paramedic service, covering the Kapiti Coast as far north as Peka Peka Road, Wairarapa and all of Wellington.
We are the only ambulance service in the region, and we are the only ones in New Zealand who are free.
Our clinical and operations teams work hand in hand to ensure our people work to the highest level of clinical practice. Visit our Clinical Care page to find out more.
Our headquarters is based in Thorndon and we have 10 ambulance stations located around the region.
We respond to more than 123,000 calls and attend around 58,000 incidents every year. See our Annual Report 2018/19.
Because we never know where the next emergency might happen, our ambulances are constantly on the move, getting ourselves into the best position to respond.
Most of our work is for people with medical conditions that need some form of urgent care, but not necessarily an ambulance or the emergency department. That is why we have paramedics working in the community, and clinical paramedic advisors and nurses helping you over the phone.
We receive some funding from government, but the rest we make up through other means, including fundraising to the tune of $5 million every year.
We are extremely lucky to have such a supportive community with generous people and businesses who believe in our work.
To find out about all parts of our service visit our what we do page.
What happens when I call 111?
When you call 111 and ask for an ambulance, we will work out the best help for you
Should I call 111?
If you have a medical emergency call 111. Do not hesitate for a moment – just call and let our professionals work out the best way to help.
For health advice anytime call Healthline on 0800 611 116
When you call us
When you call 111, the first thing we do is ask you questions to work out where you are and what help you need.
We will ask you:
- Your street number, street name and suburb
- The phone number you are calling from
- What is happening for you
- If you are helping someone else we will ask you if they are conscious and breathing.
We repeat some questions because we need to be sure we know where you are. We must be certain that we understand the nature of your emergency and what you need from us.
Help over the phone
If you have a health worry that we know from talking with you is not life threatening in any way, we will have one of our registered nurses call you back to talk through your symptoms and the best thing to do. They might help you make an appointment with your GP, ask you about your medication, or suggest good options for pain relief. If they are worried that things could get more serious, they will get extra advice from our on-site paramedic. If they think you need a visit from a paramedic or an ambulance, they will send one to you.
Last year we helped more than 5500 people safely over the phone
Care in the community
If your condition is serious and urgent, but not life threatening we send a paramedic as soon as we can. They might be one of our community based (Urgent Community Care or UCC) paramedics who arrive in a car, or it might be a team in an ambulance.
Our UCC paramedics are trained to assess your condition and make professional clinical decisions about the best course of action. They may be able to treat you safely at home, especially if you have people around to help and good care in the community. They might transport you to a medical centre or hospital.
Last year we helped more than 15,200 people stay safe and well at home.
Lights and sirens emergency
If your situation is life threatening we are sending out closest and fastest resource to you under lights and sirens. We work with Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Life Flight, and community first responders to get to you as quickly as possible. Our paramedic teams will treat you, care for you, and get you to the best place for specialist treatment.
Last year we transported around 32,400 to hospital.
When I have to wait?
Sometimes there can be a delay in getting to you if we have been called to high numbers of life-threatening incidents like cardiac arrest and serious trauma.
Even if we are busy, we care about you and want you to call 111 when you have an emergency.
If we need to come and see you, but there is going to be a delay, one of our paramedics will call you every 30 minutes to see how you are doing, and to see if things have changed.
If things are getting more serious, they will up the priority of your call so we can get to you more quickly.
We will do our best to keep you informed about how long the wait will be. Please bear with us while we work on getting you the help you need.
Working out priorities
The 111 call taker works out a person’s condition using a medical priority dispatch system. This system is used internationally and is the clinically proven way of getting the right help, to the right people, in the best possible time.
The more life-threatening the condition, the greater priority we give your call. That means sending the closest help to you, right now, under lights and sirens.
If it’s a bad sprain, break or something painful but not life threatening, an ambulance might be the best help, but it could take longer to arrive if we have a number of life-threatening things on the go at the time.
If we are delayed we will call you back to find out if anything has changed, so please keep a watch on the situation and your phone with you. If it’s something minor, we have registered nurses who will call you back and give you advice over the phone.