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NHS out-of-hours services

Coronavirus: update on getting medical help

It's important to get medical help if you need it. But to protect yourself and others from coronavirus (COVID-19), try to avoid face-to-face help if you can.

  • For help from a GP: visit the surgery's website, email them or call them.
  • For urgent medical help: use the NHS 111 online service – call 111 if you need urgent help for a child under 5 or you cannot get help online.
  • For urgent dental treatment: call your dentist or use the NHS 111 online service if you cannot contact your dentist or you do not have one.
  • For life-threatening emergencies: call 999 for an ambulance.

Find out how to get medical help from home.

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.

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, which is responsible for providing a high-quality service for the local population.

But 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 A&E services.

Some urgent care services offer access to doctors, as well as nurses. But they're not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems.

You do not need to be registered and you do not need an appointment. Anyone can simply walk in to be seen, regardless of where they're registered. Some offer pre-booked appointments.

Types of out-of-hours care

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

  • 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 after 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 dental treatment, contact your usual dental practice. 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 £22.70. You may be advised to make another appointment for a separate course of non-urgent treatment.

If this happens, you'll have to pay a second charge in the relevant treatment band.

Find out more about NHS dental charges.

Page last reviewed: 16 November 2018
Next review due: 16 November 2021