A&E departments and 999 responders experience very high demand in winter and are not always required. Many patients can be treated safely and comfortably elsewhere, meaning people who need to be seen urgently for life saving treatment can be seen quicker.
If you are feeling unwell and need urgent care there are a number of options for you to consider. It is important that you visit the right service for your needs.
If you feel unwell or have a minor injury, your local pharmacy can offer advice and some medicines. This can help you treat your condition yourself at home. Pharmacists can also help you see the right person, if you need to see someone else.
If you have a more serious illness, you should visit your GP practice website or NHS 111 online for advice. If you cannot access the internet, call 111 or your GP practice directly.
A 999 call should only be used for life-threatening emergencies or serious injuries.
Pharmacists are experts in medicines who can help you with NHS prescriptions as well as support for minor health concerns. They are able to assist when you need advice and treatment that day, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble or aches, sprains and other pains.
If symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, pharmacists have the right training to make sure you get the help you need. In some cases pharmacists can also help get you emergency medicine.
Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You do not need an appointment. You can find a local pharmacy here.
Your GP surgery should usually be the first place you contact if you have particular concern about your health. You can book an appointment on their website or by phoning them. They can also offer appointments out of hours and on weekends and bank holidays.
Your GP practice can help you with prescriptions or consultations with the right medical professional like a GP, nurse or physiotherapist. Sometimes you won’t even need to leave home.
Antibiotics do not work on winter viruses like colds and flu so do not ask for them.
GP appointments are available every weekday evening between 6.30pm-10pm (8pm in Hackney and City of London), and between 8am-8pm on weekends and bank holidays.
If you live in the City of London, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest or Newham you can book these appointments by calling your own GP practice as usual during working hours or by calling 111 out of hours.
If you live in Barking and Dagenham, Havering or Redbridge you can book these appointments by calling the GP hubs booking hotline on 020 3770 1888 (open from 8am-8pm) or by calling NHS 111 24/7.
In these three boroughs you can also get help with minor injuries and illnesses at our community Urgent Treatment Centres at Barking Community Hospital and Harold Wood Polyclinic. These are open 8am-9pm, seven days a week. You can call NHS 111 to book an appointment or walk in and wait to be seen. You do not need to be registered with a GP.
If you have an urgent but not life-threatening medical need, make sure you visit NHS 111 online first rather than going straight to A&E. NHS 111 online will help you right away and if needed, a healthcare professional will call you.
NHS 111 online makes it easier for you to get the treatment you need in the right place at the right time. The service can also direct people to urgent treatment centres (or walk-in centres), GPs, pharmacies, emergency dental services or other more appropriate local services.
NHS 111 online can also tell you where to get help for your symptoms, how to find general health information and advice, where to get emergency supplies of your prescribed medicines and how to get a repeat prescription.
If you cannot use the internet, call 111. NHS 111 will help you right away and make sure you speak to a healthcare professional or book you an appointment at an urgent treatment centre, emergency dental service, or GP. They can even book you an appointment at A&E if necessary.
You should only call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life could be at risk. You should call immediately if you or someone else is having a heart attack or stroke. You should also call 999 if someone has had a major trauma, such as a road traffic accident or has sustained a serious head injury.