NHS 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 practice, but you'll usually be directed to an out-of-hours service. The out-of-hours period is from 6.30pm to 8.00am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on bank holidays.

You can also go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you need medical help now, but it’s not an emergency.

GPs can choose whether to provide 24-hour care for their patients or to transfer responsibility for out-of-hours services to NHS England, who is responsible for providing a high-quality service for the local population. However, this can mean different areas can have slightly different services.

You can also visit an urgent care service such as an NHS walk-in centre, urgent care centre or minor injuries unit. 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 accident and emergency (A&E) services.

Some urgent care services 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.

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 urgent care centres, including minor injury units or walk-in centres
  • teams of healthcare professionals working in primary care centres, A&E departments, minor injury units, 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

Dental emergency and out-of-hours care

If you need urgent treatment, please contact your usual dental practice, as they may be able to see you or direct you to an urgent dental care service. If you do not have a regular dentist, contact NHS 111 for advice on where you can get urgent care.

The cost of emergency dental treatment is currently £18.80. You may be advised to make another appointment for a separate course of non-urgent treatment. If this happens, you will have to pay a second charge in the relevant treatment band.

For more information, see NHS dental services explained.

Page last reviewed: 13/01/2016
Next review due: 13/01/2019