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Getting medical advice and treatment

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If you are unwell then you will be better placed than anyone to decide if you need to seek medical advice, and how urgently you need that advice.

On this page we give details of the main ways in which to get medical advice, and seek treatment.

If your situation is life-threatening then always call 999. But try not to use emergency services unless it is absolutely necessary.

This the first point of contact for non-urgent concerns and general health enquiries / information. The service is available 24 hours per day. 

Call telephone number 111 speak to someone at the NHS 111 service - they will answer any questions you have, and will ensure that you are put in touch with the right service quickly if they think your situation is more urgent. 

If your medical problem is non-urgent you can book an appointment with your GP surgery. 

If you are not yet registered with a GP surgery then go to our Registering with a local doctor page for advice on what to do. 


NHS England have an app which you can download onto your smartphone. With this, once your GP practice is fully connected with the NHS app, registered patients can use the service to book and manage appointments at their GP practice, order repeat prescriptions, view their medical record, register as an organ donor and choose whether the NHS can use their data for research and planning.  Work is on-going and new capabilities are being added in the future.

You can go to your App store and download them from here: 

If you cannot get a GP appointment as quickly as you would like then consider using the NHS 111 (see above), visiting a walk-in clinic, or speaking to your local chemist for advice (see below). 

As well as dispensing your medication your local chemist can provide quick health advice on minor injuries such as cuts, sprains and small fractures, and common illnesses such as coughs and colds. They can also provide emergency contraception and give advice on issues such as improving your diet or giving up smoking.

The NHS website has a searchable list of pharmacies near you.

If you need to get advice about a non-urgent medical condition outside of normal surgery hours there may be a walk-in clinic near you. You do not necessarily need to be registered at the clinic in order to use it.

The Central London Clinical Commissioning Group provide details of some of the walk-in clinics in your area.  


Several surgeries in Westminster now provide walk-in clinics at weekends - the Imperial Health Trust and Central London Clinical Commissioning Group have details of where to go

District nurses work in people's homes and the local community to help patients improve, maintain, and recover their health, cope with health problems, and achieve the best possible quality of life, whatever their disease or disability.

The many tasks which district nurses might help with include:-

  • Supporting people to take their medication correctly, including giving injections
  • Assisting people to treat and dress wounds
  • Monitoring and treating pressure sores
  • Supporting people to manage problems with incontinence
  • Monitoring the symptoms of chonic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Taking blood or urine samples for testing
  • Supporting people with complex eating needs (i.e. people who need to use a PEG feed)

District nurses usually become involved in your care at the request of your local GP, but you can find details of your local district nurse clinic at the Central London Community Healthcare website.

The NHS 111 service allows you to check your symptoms yourself. This may be useful to answer your questions about your main symptom, help you find out when and where to get help and arrange for you to be contacted by a nurse, if needed.

Sometimes there is little choice but to go into hospital in order to receive the medical treatment you need, particularly in an emergency. But remember that going into hospital can bring its own problems, putting you at risk of developing infections and other illnesses, or of losing some of the independence which you have been used to because you have to spend so much time in bed and doing nothing. Hospital staff will always do their best to ensure your well-being whilst you are there but it is worth thinking about ways in which you can plan ahead and try to avoid a spell in hospital. 

In addition remember that winter is an especially busy period for the NHS, as many services come under increasing pressure while supporting those with health issues that become worse during the colder conditions. 

In a medical emergency  always call 999 and get the help you need. But if your situation is not urgent then consider some of the other options on this page first. 

And remember that calling 999 and going in an ambulance to hospital does not necessarily mean that you will be seen any quicker. If it's possible then consider making your own way to your local Accident and Emergency department. The NHS website allows you to find your nearest A&E department.

When you should definitely call 999

The NHS recommends that you should always call 999 in emergency situations such as the following:-

  • lost consciousness
  • fits that are not stopping
  • when someone is in an acute confused state
  • persistent, severe chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that can't be stopped

And if you or someone is having a heart attack or stroke, call 999 immediately. Every second counts with these conditions.

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The Easy Health website has gathered together various  easy-read leaflets which will help people with learning disabilities to know what to expect when they use the 111 service, go to see a doctor or visit hospital.

Last updated: 02/07/2021