Medical emergencies | University of Oxford
Medical emergencies
A view of Magdalen Tower from The Botanic Garden
Copyright © Greg Smolonski. This image comes from Oxford University Images. All rights reserved.

Medical emergencies

Emergency treatment can be obtained at the Emergency Department (A&E) of the John Radcliffe Hospital. There are also specialist services available to treat eye injuries and animal bites.

Medical treatment

Emergencies affecting the eye are treated at the Oxford Eye Hospital in the West Wing of the John Radcliffe Hospital either within the Eye Emergency Department (08:00-18:00, Monday to Friday) or in the Eye Emergency room in A&E.

Hospital emergency services should be warned in advance if possible so that they know to expect you. Where someone cannot be moved, ring 999 and ask for the Ambulance Service.

If it is not an emergency, but you need urgent medical advice (or think you need to see a doctor urgently) out of working hours, you should ring your GP's surgery. You will be connected to the Out of Hours Service and a local GP will telephone you back, usually within half an hour. If you need to be seen, you will be advised to attend the Out of Hours Centre at Manzil Way (off Cowley Road).

Advice and health information is also available at NHS Choices.


If you are under 25 and entering higher education for the first time, you should receive the MenACWY vaccine, ideally before coming to the University. If you have not already been immunised before arrival, this can be done by your college doctor.

This vaccination gives protection against a number of strains of  meningitis, including group C. You should also be vigilant for the signs and symptoms of the group B strain of meningitis.

Vital signs

The symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia are:

  • high temperature or fever
  • being violently sick
  • severe headache
  • neck stiffness (can't touch your chin to your chest)
  • joint or muscle pains
  • feeling drowsy or lethargic
  • confusion or disorientation
  • rapid deterioration of health
  • rash of tiny red/purple pin prick spots, which may spread to look like fresh bruising.

Meningitis rash: In the majority of cases, the rash does not disappear when pressed firmly, for example if you were to press a glass against it. The rash is harder to see on dark skin.

Do not wait for all the symptoms to appear, they may not.

Meningitis is a relatively rare disease, with between 2,500 and 3,000 cases being reported each year. Meningococcal disease, which can cause both meningitis and septicaemia, has a fatality rate between 10 per cent and 30 per cent. If you suspect meningitis or septicaemia:

  • don't wait for all the symptoms to appear, if you are concerned that someone is unwell, seek medical advice immediately
  • explain why you are concerned, describing the symptoms carefully. Ask for advice
  • be prepared to insist, and ask if it could be meningitis
  • if it is meningitis or septicaemia, early diagnosis and treatment are vital
  • if your doctor is not available, go immediately to the nearest casualty department. Delay could be fatal
  • if someone is ill and getting worse, even if they have already had medical attention, seek medical attention again.

Be caring: drop in on your friends if they do not appear when you are expecting them at a lecture, at a meal etc. You might save a life!


Mumps is a highly infectious serious illness caused by a virus. You are at particular risk if you have not received two doses of MMR or have no history of the MMR vaccination. If you have not had two doses of MMR vaccine you are at risk of contracting not only mumps but also measles or rubella.

The NHS recommends that young adults are protected against mumps by receiving two doses of MMR vaccine, which gives 90% protection. Check with your local doctor whether you have had two previous MMR vaccinations or have had mumps before (in 1994 some children received MR vaccine. This contains only measles and rubella. It does not protect against mumps.) If not, inform your new/college doctor in Oxford. If you have not had MMR or mumps infection previously, the best protection is to have two doses of MMR each one month apart. If you have had one previous MMR vaccination you should have another one now.

Vital signs

It usually starts with a fever and headache for a day or two. It then presents with swelling and soreness of the parotid salivary gland (located at the angle of the jaw, in front of the ears) and a "flu like" illness. Mumps can also cause orchitis (swelling of the testicles), oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries), ear infections and swelling of the pancreas. It can also affect the central nervous system causing meningitis or deafness.

What to do if you think you have mumps

Stay in your room or at home and call your college doctor, nurse or GP for advice. Do not go into the University or your college. Mumps can have serious consequences for your studies. You will probably be ill for 7-10 days and will need to stay away from lectures and tutorials and to limit social contact for a minimum of five days. The time from becoming infected to becoming unwell is around 14-21 days. You are most infectious just before you become unwell and for 5-10 days afterwards.

To protect yourself

  1. Two doses of MMR vaccine if not already vaccinated, but noting that this protection is only 90% and not immediate.
  2. 2. Avoid intimate contact with others, especially kissing multiple partners or sharing drinking vessels, cutlery etc at a meal.
  3. 3. Usual washing of cutlery and crockery between uses.
  4. 4. Practice good hand hygiene, for example, before eating in case hands have been contaminated.

Avoid spreading mumps

  1. If ill contact the college nurse or GP to seek diagnosis.
  2. Self-isolate immediately and until five days after the onset of the mumps illness.
  3. Practice good hand hygiene (washing with soap and water or hand gel) especially after coughing or sneezing or if your hands may have touched your mouth.
  4. Using disposable tissues if coughing or sneezing.

Public health advice is available from Public Health England.


Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be a severe illness in adults. It is now uncommon in the UK because of the effective MMR vaccination programme, however uptake of the vaccine was lower at the time current university students were offered the vaccine as children.Those who are unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, remain susceptible to the disease.

It is never too late to have the vaccine. If you have not received two doses of the vaccine in the past – or if you are unsure – you should speak to your GP. There is no harm in receiving an additional dose if there is any uncertainty.

Vital signs

Symptoms of measles can include:

  • cold-like symptoms;
  • sore red eyes;
  • a high temperature;
  • a red-brown blotchy rash.

What to do if you think you or someone you have been in contact with has measles

Those experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention, but phone ahead before visiting GP surgeries so arrangements can be made to prevent others from being infected. If you have been in close contact with someone who has measles you should also see your GP if you have not been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine).

Bites and scratches from animals

You should contact the Occupational Health Service first by telephoning 01865 282676 (09:00-17:00, Monday to Friday) to let them know of the problem before you arrive, unless:

  • it is a major bite with a lot of tissue damage, in which case go straight to the Accident Service at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Inform the Medical Officer on duty at the Infectious Disease Unit, John Warin Ward, Churchill Hospital;
  • it happens outside working hours: at night or weekends you should go to the Accident Service at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and as above, inform the Medical Officer on duty at the Infectious Disease Unit. 

Emergency contacts


Name & address


Opening hours

Eye emergenciesThe Oxford Eye Hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital01865 22480008:00-18:00, Monday to Friday
Injuries from animalsOccupational Health Service, 10 Parks Road01865 28267609:00-17:00, Monday to Friday
Major injuries from animalsJohn Radcliffe Hospital, Emergency Dept01865 22020824 hours
All other emergenciesJohn Radcliffe Hospital, Emergency Dept01865 22020824 hours