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:

  • loss of consciousness
  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds
  • stroke
  • major trauma such as a road traffic accident

When to visit an urgent treatment centre (walk-in centre or minor injury unit)

You can go to an urgent treatment centre if you need urgent medical attention, but it’s not a life-threatening situation.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
  • high temperature in child and adults
  • stomach pain
  • being sick (vomiting) and diarrhoea
  • emergency contraception

If in doubt contact 111

When to Seek Help From Your Pharmacist

As qualified healthcare professionals, they can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.

If symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, pharmacists have the right training to make sure you get the help you need. For example they will tell you if you need to see a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.

All pharmacists train for 5 years in the use of medicines. They are also trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice.

Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You do not need an appointment.

Most pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard

Minor illnesses

Pharmacies can give treatment advice about a range of common conditions and minor injuries, such as:

  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • coughs
  • colds
  • flu
  • earache
  • cystitis
  • skin rashes
  • teething
  • red eye

If you want to buy an over-the-counter medicine, the pharmacist and their team can help you choose.

Antibiotics will not be available over the counter to treat minor conditions.

Seeing Your GP

GPs are highly skilled doctors who look after the health of people in their local community and deal with a wide range of health problems. Your GP should be your first point of contact for health issues that you can’t treat yourself with the help of your local pharmacy or information on NHS.uk.

GPs work in a practice as part of a team that includes nurses, healthcare assistants and other staff. They’re trained in all aspects of general medicine, which includes child health, mental health, screening, vaccinations and the management of long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

GP practices are there to support patients throughout their lives and help you manage your health and prevent illness. They work closely with other professionals such as health visitors, midwifes, mental health services and social services, and if your GP can’t deal with a problem they may refer you to hospital or another NHS service for tests, treatment or to see a specialist.

They’re usually open throughout the day from Monday to Friday but if you work during the day, many practices are now open early in the morning and in the early evening.

You’ll need to register with a GP practice to access their services. When doing so, it’s a good idea to take the time to find a practice that meets your personal needs.