Choosing the best service

Which healthcare service should you choose?

There are a number of different services you can access for care or treatment – below is a brief explanation of the different services and what you should use them for.  Please always call 999 in an emergency and use A&E for major, life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

First aid kit and medical cabinet at home

Grazes/sore throat/cough

A lot of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home with medicines you can buy at a chemist, and plenty of rest.

Useful medicines include:

  • Paracetamol and aspirin—for pain relief
  • Decongestants—for stuffy noses
  • Indigestion remedies—tablets or liquids to help with heartburn
  • Antiseptic creams—for cuts and grazes

Never give aspirin to children under 16. Always follow the instructions on the pack. Keep medicines out of the reach of children.

You can also be prepared by keeping a first aid kit at home. Useful items include bandages, plasters, thermometer, sterile dressings, medical tape and tweezers. Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become poorly quickly. It is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

NHS 111

Unwell/unsure/need advice

You should dial 111 when you need advice or medical treatment, and you cannot wait for an appointment to see your doctor.

  • 111 is free to call and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • When you call 111, you will speak to an adviser from the NHS 111 team—the team has trained advisers, nurses and GPs who can help you and they will ask you questions to find out what help you need

The 111 adviser will be able to:

  • Decide what medical help you need
  • Tell you where you need to go to get this medical help
  • Transfer your call to the service you need
  • Book an out of hours GP appointment for you if needed


Mild diarrhoea/cold symptoms/mild fever/mild skin irritation

Your local pharmacist, or chemist, is highly trained. They can offer advice and suggest medicines or treatments for a range of common problems such as coughs, colds, upset stomachs, aches and pains. They often provide additional services such as:

  • Emergency contraception
  • Needle exchange and supervised drug administration
  • Pregnancy testing
  • Stop smoking services
  • Chlamydia screening and treatment
  • Flu vaccine

To find your nearest pharmacist, call 111 or visit


Vomiting/painful cough/high temperature

To see a General Practitioner (GP) at your doctor's surgery you will need to be registered and make an appointment. GPs have access to your medical records so they can see all your health needs. When you see your GP they can:

  • Provide advice on physical and mental health problems
  • Provide diagnosis and treatment for a range of conditions
  • Help you with long-term care
  • Arrange referrals to hospital specialists and community based services when necessary

Registering with a GP

It is very important to be registered with a GP. You must be registered to make an appointment. This also lets you get referred to specialist hospital and community treatment if you need it. For help registering visit

Urgent care/walk-in centres

NHS walk-in centres offer convenient access to a range of treatments and deal with minor illnesses and injuries.


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