Know who to turn to for your healthcare

We want to help you get the right medical assistance when you’re ill, injured or have a long-term condition. Going directly to the service with the appropriate skills is important.

This can help you to make a speedier recovery, and ensures all NHS services are run efficiently.

Accident & Emergency

You can use the link below to find local A&E departments.

If you dial 999 for an Ambulance and you have to be taken to Hospital, then the Ambulance Crew will take you to the most appropriate A&E – this may not be the closest.

When to go to A&E

An A&E Department (also known as Emergency Department or Casualty) deals with genuine life-threatening emergencies, such as:

Less severe injuries can be treated in Urgent Care Centres or Minor Injuries Units. A&E is not an alternative to a GP appointment.

If your GP is closed you can go to or call 111, which will direct you to the best local service.

Alternatively, you can visit an NHS Urgent Treatment or Walk-In Centre, which will also treat minor illnesses without an appointment.

What happens at A&E?

A&E Departments offer access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A&E staff include Paramedics, A&E Nurses, Diagnostic Radiographers, A&E Reception Staff, Porters, Healthcare Assistants and Emergency Medicine Doctors. These medical staff are all highly trained in all aspects of emergency medicine.

1. Register

If you arrive by Ambulance, the Ambulance Crew will provide the relevant details to Reception and hand you over to the Clinical staff. If you are seriously ill, the staff will already know because the Ambulance Crew will have alerted them on the way to the Hospital.

If you’re not in a life-threatening or serious condition, you will be prioritised by the A&E Hospital Team along with other patients waiting to be seen – arriving by Ambulance does not necessarily mean you will be seen sooner than if you had walked in to A&E.

If you go to A&E by yourself, you’ll need to register when you first arrive. You’ll be asked a few questions such as your name and address, and asked why you are visiting A&E. If you have been to the Hospital before, the Reception Staff will also have access to your health records.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll be asked to wait until you are called for your assessment.

Some Hospitals have a separate Children’s A&E Department where medical staff are specially trained to deal with children’s health issues. You may be asked to go straight to the children’s area where your child can be registered and assessed.

If you need special assistance because of a physical or mental disability then you should let Hospital staff know right away. The Hospital may be able to call a Learning Disabilities Liaison, a member of their Liaison Psychiatry Team, or provide any other assistance you or your carer may need.

2. Assessment – Triage

Once you have registered you’ll generally be preassessed by a Nurse or Doctor before further action is taken. This is called Triage. The process is carried out on all patients attending A&E. Triage ensures people with the most serious conditions are seen first.

3. Treatment, transfer or discharge

What happens next depends on the results of your assessment. Sometimes further tests need to be arranged before a course of action can be decided.

If the Nurse or Doctor feels your situation is not a serious accident or emergency, you may be sent to a nearby Urgent Care Centre, Minor Injuries Unit or referred to a GP onsite. This will reduce the waiting queue in A&E and at the same time allows you (the patient with the lesser injury) to be treated quickly as well.

The waiting time target for patients in A&E is currently set to 4 hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. However, not all hospitals have associated Urgent Care Centres, which means people with minor injuries may have a longer wait until they are seen.

In some cases you may be sent home and asked to arrange for a GP referral or you may be given a prescription and sent home. Either way, the Hospital will inform your GP that you have been to A&E.

If your situation is more complicated, you may be seen by an A&E Doctor or referred to a Specialist Unit. For example, this could happen for eye problemsstrokes or emergency gynaecology.


Severe toothache, infection or injury within your mouth or to your teeth that needs urgent attention?

You should contact your Dental Practice for an appointment. Even if your Practice is closed, you will hear a message which provides details of their out of hours arrangements for providing advice and treatment.

Not registered with a Dentist?

In order to receive the full range of dental treatment and care under the NHS you must be registered with a Dentist.

When you register with a Dentist you’ll be registered for life, unless you or your Dentist request your registration to be withdrawn.

If you attend another Dentist for treatment and don’t tell them you’re registered elsewhere, your registration will automatically transfer to your new Dentist.

Not all Dentists will take on new NHS patients so it’s important to ask them if they’re able to take you on as an NHS patient during your first contact with them.

Worried about persistent mouth, tooth or gum problems?

Arrange an appointment with your Dentist to get a dental check-up.


Your Local Hospital

If your GP is closed you can go to or call 111, which will direct you to the best local service.

Alternatively, you can visit an NHS Urgent Treatment or Walk-in Centre, which will also treat minor illnesses without an appointment.

Urgent Treatment Centres are GP led and open for at least 12 hours a day every day of the week (including Bank Holidays).

You can learn about when to go to A&E via the “Accident & Emergency” section above.

When to visit an Urgent Care Centre

Urgent Treatment Centres are a facility you can go to if you need urgent medical attention but don’t have a life-threatening situation.

They are GP-led and open for at least 12 hours a day every day of the week (including Bank Holidays).

You may be referred to an Urgent Treatment Centre by NHS 111 or by your GP. You can also just turn up and walk in.

Conditions that can be treated at an Urgent Treatment Centre include:

  • sprains and strains
  • suspected broken limbs
  • minor head injuries
  • cuts and grazes
  • bites and stings
  • minor scalds and burns
  • ear and throat infections
  • skin infections and rashes
  • eye problems
  • coughs and colds
  • feverish illness in adults
  • feverish illness in children
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • emergency contraception

Your Local Optician

If you have an eye problem, you can make an emergency appointment with an Optician (also known as an Optometrist).

These appointments are provided free by the NHS and will ensure you receive the correct specialist care as soon as possible.

How can an Optician help?

Opticians (Optometrists) have the same specialist equipment as specialist eye Doctors (Hospital Ophthalmologists) and may be able to treat and manage your eye problem without a need for you to go anywhere else.

They can also refer you to a Hospital Eye Clinic if necessary.

To make an emergency appointment, telephone your Optician/Optometrist or call 111 to speak to an Adviser when your local Optician is not available out of hours.

How often should I have an eye test?

Our eyes rarely hurt when something is wrong with them, so having regular eye tests is important to help detect potentially harmful conditions.

The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every two years (more often if advised by your Ophthalmic Practitioner or Optometrist).

An NHS sight (eye) test is free of charge if you are in one of the eligible groups and your sight test is considered clinically necessary. If the Ophthalmic Practitioner can’t see a clinical need then you’ll have to pay for the test privately.

For more information, read about free NHS sight tests and optical vouchers.

Your Local Pharmacy

Your local Pharmacy is the place to go to get any prescription medicines and clinical advice for minor health concerns.

Pharmacy Teams play a key role in providing quality healthcare.

Pharmacists can also help you decide whether you need to see a medical health professional.

What to expect from your Pharmacy Team

Pharmacists are experts in medicines, and use their clinical expertise, together with their practical knowledge, to advise you on minor health concerns such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as healthy eating and stopping smoking.

They can help you consider the alternatives next time you’re thinking of making a Doctor’s appointment.

You can always call NHS 111, which will help you find the right NHS service.

What services do Pharmacies offer?

All Pharmacies provide the following services:

  • dispensing
  • repeat dispensing
  • disposal of unwanted or out-of-date medicines
  • advice on treatment of minor health concerns and healthy living

Other services that may be available from your local Pharmacy:

NHS Out of Hours Services

The NHS pledges to provide services at a time that’s convenient for you. Outside normal Surgery Hours you can still phone your GP Practice, but you’ll usually be directed to an Out-of-Hours Service.

The out-of-hours period is from 6.30pm to 8am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on Bank Holidays.

You can also go to or call 111 if you need medical help now, but it’s not an emergency.

GPs can choose whether to provide 24-hour care for their patients or to transfer responsibility for out-of-hours services to NHS England, who’s responsible for providing a high-quality service for the local population.

However, this can mean different areas can have slightly different services.

Urgent Care Service

You can also visit an urgent care service, such as an NHS Walk-in Centre, Urgent Care Centre or Minor Injuries Unit.

These can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses, such as cuts, bruises and rashes.

They have proved to be a successful complementary service to traditional GP and A&E services.

Some urgent care services offer access to Doctors, as well as Nurses however, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems.

You don’t need to be registered and you don’t need an appointment. Any member of the public can simply walk in to be seen, regardless of where they’re registered. Some offer prebooked appointments.

Types of out-of-hours care

Out-of-hours cover may include some or all of these services:

  • GPs working in A&E Departments or Urgent Care Centres, including Minor Injury Units or Walk-in Centres
  • Teams of Healthcare Professionals working in Primary Care Centres, A&E Departments, Minor Injury Units, Urgent Care Centres or NHS Walk-in Centres
  • Healthcare Professionals (other than Doctors) making home visits after a detailed clinical assessment
  • Ambulance services moving patients to places where they can be seen by a Doctor or Nurse to reduce the need for home visits

Dental emergency and out-of-hours care

If you need urgent dental treatment, contact your usual Dental Practice. They may be able to see you, and if not will direct you to an urgent dental care service.

If you don’t have a regular Dentist, contact NHS 111 for advice on where you can get urgent care.

The cost of emergency dental treatment is currently £22.70 You may be advised to make another appointment for a separate course of non-urgent treatment.

If this happens, you’ll have to pay a second charge in the relevant treatment band.