Winter is a hugely busy time for the NHS, especially for A&E departments.

Did you know that there are loads of health services available that people don’t often realise they could use instead of going straight to A&E.

Take a look at our round-up of what services you should be using, and when.


A lot of common illnesses can be treated at home by using over-the-counter medicine and getting plenty of rest.

Treat yourself if you have a minor illness or injury, for example if you have a cough or cold, sore throat, grazed knee and so on.

Urgent Care Centre

Local urgent care centres and walk-in centres provide fast medical treatment and advice for patients with injuries which are urgent but not life threatening.

Urgent care centres treat injuries and illnesses such as cuts, sprains and strains, broken bones, minor burns and scalds, minor head and eye injuries, bites and stings.
You can also use an urgent care centre if you can’t wait for an appointment with your GP.

You don’t need to book an appointment, just turn up and you will be seen promptly by a doctor or nurse.

Wait times are often much less than A&E. Find out wait times online.


Your local pharmacist can give you advice about over-the-counter medicines that can help with lots of common conditions such as diarrhoea, a runny nose, a painful cough or a headache, without the need for an appointment.

You can find your local pharmacy by putting your postcode into the NHS Pharmacy Finder.

Remember that most GP practices will be closed for between Saturday 23rd and Tuesday 26th December, and again from Saturday 30th December to Monday 2nd January, so be sure to order any regular medication before then.

GP Surgeries

You should visit your local GP if you have an illness or injury that will not go away. This could include persistent vomiting, stomach or back ache.

Make sure you’re registered with your local GP this Christmas so that you can access GP appointments.

NHS 111

The 111 service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and is free to call.

NHS 111 can give you advice on a health problem, as well as directing your call if you’re not sure what medical advice you need.

Call 111 if:
• You don’t know who to call for medical help
• You need an NHS urgent care service
• You need information about a health issue

Emergency Department

A&E departments are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to treat people with serious and life threatening emergencies.