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, who's responsible for providing a high-quality service for the local population.
But this can mean different areas can have slightly different services.
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 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'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 don't have a regular dentist, contact NHS 111 for advice on where you can get urgent care.
The cost of emergency dental treatment is currently £21.60. 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.
Page last reviewed: 16 November 2018
Next review due: 16 November 2021