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Urgent and emergency care services in England

Minor injuries units and urgent care centres

If you have an illness that is not life threatening, contact your GP surgery first if possible. You can still call your GP outside normal surgery hours, but you will usually be directed to an out-of-hours service. The out-of-hours period is 6.30pm to 8am on weekdays, and all day at weekends and on bank holidays.

You can also call NHS 111, which can give you advice or direct you to the best local service to treat your injury.  

If your injury is not serious, you can get help from a minor injuries unit or urgent care centre, rather than going to an A&E department. This will allow A&E staff to concentrate on people with serious, life-threatening conditions and will save you a potentially long wait.

There are around seven million attendances at type 3 A&E services (walk-in centres, urgent care centres and minor injuries units) in England. Minor injuries units and urgent care centres are usually led by nurses, and an appointment is not necessary.

Some minor injuries units, urgent care centres and walk-in centres do not have facilities to treat young children. This depends on the capacity, resources or skill levels available at the departments. Contact your local minor injuries unit, urgent care centre or walk-in centre in advance if you're not sure whether you or your child can be treated there. 

Minor injuries units and urgent care centres can treat:

  • sprains and strains
  • broken bones
  • wound infections
  • minor burns and scalds
  • minor head injuries
  • insect and animal bites
  • minor eye injuries
  • injuries to the back, shoulder and chest

If there is not a minor injuries unit in your area, these services will also be provided by an A&E department

Minor injuries units and urgent care centres cannot treat:

  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • major injuries
  • problems usually dealt with by a GP
  • stomach pains
  • gynaecological problems
  • pregnancy problems
  • allergic reactions
  • overdoses
  • alcohol-related problems
  • mental health problems
  • conditions likely to require hospital admission

For more information about any of the conditions listed above, visit the Health A-Z section on this site.

Page last reviewed: 10/02/2015

Next review due: 28/02/2018

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