Right Care, Right Place, First Time

We have provided a step by step guide for when you need medical help or advice.

Step one

Can I deal with this myself?

Self care

A well stocked medicine cabinet will help treat many common illnesses. Colds, coughs, indigestion and many other minor complaints can all be treated with medicines available over the counter. It is worthwhile having a small stock of paracetamol and/or ibuprofen which can be used as pain killers as well as to control temperature. Always follow the instructions on the medicine label and seek further advice if the illness continues or becomes more severe.


Your local pharmacy can give on the spot advice for minor ailments, sells remedies for a wide range of problems including stomach upsets, aches and pains, allergies, coughs and colds, and can advise on where best to get further help. Selected pharmacies offer extra services through pharmacy first schemes, or sell additional treatments such as the emergency contraception pill. Some pharmacies are now open until midnight; details are available from NHS Direct.

Opening hours and locations

Opening hours (including evenings, weekends and bank holidays) and location of all health services in your area are available from the NHS 111 Service.

Online services

You can find out about all national and local NHS services, opening times and locations, and access a range of self help information at www.nhs.uk.

Step two

Do I need more help advice or treatment?

GP services

Your GP can treat a wide range of illnesses and minor injuries, provide prescriptions and advice on wellness to work.

Out of hours service

The out of hours service is for urgent medical care and advice when your GP surgery is closed. ‘Urgent’ means that you cannot safely wait until your GP surgery is next open. You can access the out of hours service by calling your usual GP surgery number. You will be transferred directly to the out of hours service, which operates in the evenings, on bank holidays and at the weekends or call 111.

NHS 111 service

You can call 111 or online for healthcare help and advice.


Registered patients should phone their own dental practice. If the surgery is closed, you will receive information on what to do next. You can also phone 111 at any time for dental advice.

Walk-in centres

You can see an experienced GP or nurse for the treatment of minor injuries or illnesses. You don’t need to make an appointment. See the back page of this leaflet for locations and opening times.

Step three

Is it an emergency?

An emergency is a serious injury or life threatening problem such as:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe breathing difficulty
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Suspected broken bones
  • Deep wounds (e.g. stab wounds)
  • Swallowing something harmful or poisonous

In an emergency you can go to your nearest accident and emergency department (A&E) or call 999 for an ambulance.

Remember that A&E and 999 should only be used in emergencies.

Using them for minor problems or because you have no transport puts other people’s lives at risk and wastes money that could be spent elsewhere to improve NHS services.

Contacting your GP practice, the out of hours service or NHS 111 service for minor problems will usually result in faster and more appropriate advice and treatment.

Arriving at A&E by ambulance does not give you priority over other patients with similar problems who have come by car or public transport.

For more information, please visit NHS: When to go to A&E.