Out of Hours Healthcare

Posted on: 22 December 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Do you know where to go for medical care when your doctor’s surgery is closed?

Research from Which? shows that many people don’t know what healthcare services are available out-of-hours or are unclear about which service they should use.

Although more than a third (35%) of those surveyed had used an out-of-hours healthcare service in the past year, there was lack of knowledge about what services are available and when they can be used.  More than half (52%) of the people Which? surveyed didn’t know that they could call an out-of-hours GP service when their surgery was closed.

The following is a guide to the options available and when they should be accessed:

Woman Using NHS Direct NHS Direct (England & Wales) Or NHS 24 (Scotland)

NHS Direct provides confidential telephone advice 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Use this service for general health information or advice. If you are unsure what treatment or advice you need their websites also contain useful health information.
NHS Direct is on 0845 46 47 or www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
NHS 24 is on 08454 242424 or www.nhs24.com

Out-Of-Hours GP Services

Use this service when you need advice ore treatment quickly but the condition is not life-threatening. Ring your doctor’s surgery even if it is closed. An answer phone should tell you what to do when the surgery is closed or connect you to an out-of-hours service. You may receive telephone advice or a home visit, or be asked to visit a GP.

NHS Minor Injuries UnitWalk-In-Services (‘Minor Injuries Units’)

These centres treat minor illnesses and injuries and are usually open from early morning to late evening, seven days a week (check on NHS Direct or NHS24). You don’t have to make an appointment but it’s worth phoning ahead to check that they can treat you or a family member.


Pharmacies now offer an increasing range of services, which may include advice about minor ailments and certain medicines; some may be open until 12am.

Accident and EmergencyAccident & Emergency

Use A&E only for emergency injuries and illnesses, such as breathing difficulties, blood loss and suspected broken bones. Usually open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Ring 999 (or the European-wide 112) when someone needs immediate emergency care, such as for a suspected heart attack or major injuries.

Web Links

For impartial health and medical advice visit http://www.which.co.uk/advice/food-and-health/index.jsp

Visit NHS Direct at http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/ or NHS 24 at www.nhs24.com

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