Only call 999 or go to A&E in a genuine life-threatening emergency, such as:
- loss of consciousness
- acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
- persistent, severe chest pain
- breathing difficulties
- severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
For illnesses that are not life-threatening you should first contact your GP surgery. Outside of normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP, but you will usually be directed to an out-of-hours service. The out-of-hours period is from 6.30pm to 8am on weekdays, and all day at weekends and on bank holidays. During out-of-hours periods you can also call NHS 111. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide medical advice and advise you on the best local service to offer the care you need.
Less severe injuries can be treated in minor injuries units (MIUs) and NHS walk-in centres (WICs), which can treat patients without an appointment.
If an ambulance is needed, call 999, the emergency phone number in the UK. You can also dial 112, which is the ambulance number throughout the European Union.
Major A&E departments offer access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although not all hospitals have an A&E department. At A&E a doctor or nurse will assess your condition and decide on further action.
Other services that offer emergency and urgent care
- Minor injuries units (MIUs) offer assessment and treatment for minor injuries such as sprains and strains. Read more about MIUs or find an MIU near you.
- Urgent care centres can provide a variety of services and are an alternative to A&E in non-life threatening situations. However, not all urgent care centres provide the same services. It is advisable to contact your local urgent care centre first and check if they are able to deal with your problem. You can also call NHS 111 for advice.
- At NHS walk-in centres (WICs) you can see an experienced nurse or doctor (although not all centres have a doctor) without an appointment. They offer advice, assessment and treatment for minor ailments and injuries such as cuts, bruises, minor infections, strains and skin complaints. Read more about WICs or find a WIC near you.
- GP out-of-hours service – A GP is always available from 6.30pm to 8am weekdays and all day weekends and bank holidays. The organisation providing the service varies in different areas so check first with your local surgery or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). When your local GP surgery is shut, an answerphone message will give you the contact details for the out-of-hours service. Alternatively you can call NHS 111 for advice.
- If clinically necessary, out-of-hours dental treatment is also provided by your Clinical Commissioning Group. Read more about dental emergency and out-of-hours care.
- Emergency contraception can stop you becoming pregnant after having unprotected sex. Two methods are available, the "morning after pill" and the copper intrauterine device (IUD). The pill can be taken up to 72 hours after sex and is available free from your GP and most family planning clinics. It is also available from some pharmacies. The IUD is a plastic and copper device that is fitted into the woman’s womb by a doctor or nurse within five days of having unprotected sex. Read our guide to contraception for more advice.
- Mental health emergencies – If a person's mental or emotional state quickly worsens, this can be treated as a mental health emergency or mental health crisis. In this situation, it's important to get help as soon as possible. Contact NHS 111 to find out where help is available. If you feel the person is in immediate danger then call 999. Find more information about Access to mental health services, including emergencies.