Get the Right Treatment - NHS Direct helps you Choose Well

Choose Well logoOften people go to A&E or call 999 when they should seek help elsewhere. The NHS Choose Well campaign wants to help you make the right decision on where to go when you're ill or worried about a loved one. The NHS Direct website or the new NHS 111 telephone advice service can help.

Choose NHS Direct

The NHS Direct website can assess your symptoms online quickly and tell you whether you need further care, helping you Choose Well every time. If you can look after yourself, NHS Direct's self care advice tells you how. Go to NHS Direct to check your symptoms online or download the NHS Direct mobile app.

If you don't have access to the internet, call the NHS 111 service for advice. It costs nothing to call, even from a mobile phone..

Self care - common sense and plenty of rest

Self care at home is usually the best option for common complaints such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. Check your symptoms online and receive self care advice to look after yourself with confidence. Click to find out more about first aid and self care.

Keeping a well stocked medicine cabinet at home can help you treat many minor ailments. Colds, coughs, indigestion and many other minor complaints can all be treated with medicines that are available over the counter.

Your pharmacist can advise on what you might find useful to keep in your medicine cabinet. Always follow the instructions on the medicine label and consult your doctor if the illness continues or becomes more severe.

Pharmacy - expert advice without an appointment

local pharmacyPharmacists offer professional free health advice at any time - you don't need an appointment. From coughs and colds to aches and pains, they can give you expert help on everyday illnesses. They can answer questions about prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Your local Pharmacist can also advise on healthy eating. 

Pharmacists can also advise on health eating, obesity and giving up smoking. Some pharmacists have private areas where you can talk in confidence. They may suggest you visit your GP for more serious symptoms. It is possible to purchase many medicines from the chemist without a prescription.  Watch this short video on how you can get the most out of your local pharmacy.

It is estimated that every year, 50 million visits to the GP are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, mild eczema, and athlete's foot. By visiting your pharmacy instead, you could save yourself time and trouble.

GP surgery - when you have a complaint that won't go away

Your doctor and practice nurses offer advice and assessment, and a range of routine healthcare services by appointment. Make sure you are registered with a local GP. Your GP surgery also has arrangements in place for you to get access to a GP outside normal surgery hours if you have problem that won't won't wait till the surgery is next open. For more information about this, click on the "When we are closed" tab above.

Walk-in centres - for sprains, minor burns, broken bones...

Choose walk-in centres, minor injury units and urgent care centres when you have a health problem that isn’t a 999 emergency. You don’t need an appointment to visit and you'll be seen in priority order by a doctor or experienced nurse. Go to NHS Direct to find your nearest urgent care centre or assess an injury online.

You can receive treatment for many ailments including:Walk in Centres

  • infection and rashes,
  • fractures and lacerations,
  • emergency contraception and advice,
  • stomach upsets,
  • cuts and bruises, or
  • burns and strains.

Some centres offer access to doctors as well as nurses. However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems.

A&E and 999 - for serious injury and illness only

Accident and emergency (A&E) and the 999 ambulance service should only be used in a life-threatening or critical situation. You should only call 999 for an ambulance in a real emergency.  You can also dial 112, which is the equivalent for the European Union.

Major A&E departments assess and treat patients who have serious injuries or illnesses. Generally, you should visit A&E or call 999 for emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness,
  • pain that is not relieved by simple analgesia,
  • acute confused state,
  • persistent, severe chest pain, or
  • breathing difficulties.

Major A&E departments offer access 365 days a year and usually open 24 hours a day. Be aware that not all hospitals have an A&E department.

A&E can get very busy and you may have to wait a long time to be seen if you are not a life-threatening emergency.


If in doubt, use a symptom checker now for advice on what to do next.

Every year, millions of us visit our GP with minor health problems that can be easily resolved without a doctor's appointment.

It is estimated that every year, 50 million visits to the GP are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, mild eczema, and athlete's foot. By visiting your pharmacy instead, you could save yourself time and trouble.

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website