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NHS general practitioners (GPs)

Out-of-hours services

The NHS pledges to provide services at a time that's convenient for you.

Outside normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP surgery, but you'll 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.

If it is not an immediate emergency then call NHS 111. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can provide medical advice and details of the best local service that can provide care. Telephone consultations and triage (an assessment of how urgent your medical problem is) are an important part of all out-of-hours care.

GPs can choose whether to provide 24-hour care for their patients or to transfer responsibility for out-of-hours services to the relevant NHS England Area Team.

Area Teams are responsible for providing a high-quality service for the local population. Some Area Teams provide care themselves. Others provide care through external organisations. This means different areas can have slightly different services.

Types of out-of-hours care

Out-of-hours cover may include some or all of the services below:

  • GPs working in A&E departments or minor injuries units (MIUs)
  • teams of healthcare professionals working in primary care centres, A&E departments, MIUs, urgent care centres or NHS walk-in centres
  • healthcare professionals (other than doctors) making home visits, following a detailed clinical assessment
  • ambulance services moving patients to places where they can be seen by a doctor or nurse, to reduce the need for home visits

You can also visit an NHS walk-in centre (WiC), urgent care centre (UCC) or minor injuries unit (MIU). These can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes. They have proved to be a successful complementary service to traditional GP and A&E services. Some NHS WiCs offer access to doctors as well as nurses. However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems. You don't need to be registered and you don't need an appointment. Any member of the public can simply walk in to be seen, regardless of where they are registered. Some offer pre-booked appointments.

Page last reviewed: 10/02/2015

Next review due: 10/02/2017

Medicines out of hours

Find out how to access your medicines outside of usual opening hours

About A&E departments

Find out when it is appropriate to go to A&E and what other services offer urgent care