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Need urgent or emergency care? Who should I call to ask for help or where should I go?



Stay Well

If you’re feeling unwell, there’s lots of ways the NHS can help you. But which service should you choose?

Firstly, read our handy booklet on how to Stay Well This Winter.

Watch our video explaining how your community pharmacist can help you get better quickly if you fall ill this winter


Our videos below will explain how to get better quickly by choosing the right service at the right time. Services to choose from include NHS 111, community pharmacies, minor injuries units, your GP practice and A&E.


Listen to our Stay Well radio advert for advice on what services to use and when. 

And watch this great video produced by North West Ambulance Service to explain why it's so important to use the NHS responsibly, especially during the winter.

You can then use our “Where’s my nearest?” search facility below to find the closest service that’s right for your needs if self-care isn’t the best option for you.

And don't forget the free flu jab if you’re entitled to it.

Alternatively read the information below.


Always call 999 and ask to be put through to the ambulance service if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. For example when the person you are calling 999 on behalf of:

  • has experienced a loss of consciousness
  • is in an acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • has persistent, severe chest pain
  • has breathing difficulties
  • has severe bleeding that cannot be stopped

Once you are connected to an ambulance 999 operator or call handler, they will ask you a series of questions to establish what is wrong. This will allow them to determine the most appropriate response as quickly as possible.

Emergency 999 calls to the ambulance service are prioritised into two categories to ensure life-threatening cases receive the quickest response:

  • Immediately life threatening – An emergency response will reach 75% of these calls within eight minutes. Where onward transport is required, 95% of life-threatening calls will receive an ambulance vehicle capable of transporting the patient safely within 19 minutes of the request for transport being made.
  • All other calls – For conditions that are not life threatening, response targets are set locally

A 999 call should only be made in a genuine emergency.

A&E Departments

A&E departments assess and treat patients with serious injuries or illnesses. Generally, you should only visit A&E for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • persistent, severe chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped

Major A&E departments offer access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although not all hospitals have an A&E department. At A&E a doctor or nurse will assess your condition and decide on further action.

To find your nearest A&E department click here

To ensure seriously ill and injured patients are treated as quickly as possible, people who are considering calling 999 or going to an A&E department but whose health condition or situation is not serious should consider other healthcare advice and support options. These could include:

1. Attend a minor injuries unit

If you have sustained an injury which is not serious but needs attention and you are able to make travel by your own means (or via friend, family, neighbours) you can get help from a Minor Injuries Unit (MIU), rather than calling 999 or going to an A&E department. This will allow A&E staff to concentrate on people with serious, life-threatening conditions and will save you a potentially long wait.

More information can be found by clicking HERE


2. Call NHS 111

You can call the number 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.

NHS 111 is a fast and easy way to get the right help and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.

Call 111 if:

  • you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency
  • you think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
  • you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call
  • you need health information or reassurance about what to do next

How does NHS 111 work

The NHS 111 service is staffed by a team of fully trained advisers, supported by experienced nurses and paramedics. They will ask you questions to assess your symptoms, then give you the healthcare advice you need or direct you straightaway to the local service that can help you best. That could be A&E, an out-of-hours doctor, an urgent care centre or a walk-in centre, a community nurse, an emergency dentist or a late-opening chemist.

For more information on NHS 111:

NHS 111 Easy Read leaflet

NHS 111 Leaflet (English)

NHS 111 Leaflet (alternative languages)

For less urgent health needs, you can also contact your GP or local pharmacist in the usual way.

NHS 111 Online

If you're worried about an urgent medical concern, you can now get help online using your smartphone, tablet or computer.

The online service is fast, free and easy to use and offers the same help as the 111 phone line. It is becoming increasingly available across England throughout 2018.

Use the service to:

  • answer questions about your symptoms
  • find out where to go for help, or get a call back from a nurse, if you can’t see your GP or dentist.
  • get advice on self care

Get help online now.

3. Self Care at home

This is the best option for common complaints such as:

  • Coughs, colds, sore-throats
  • Upset stomachs
  • General aches and pains
  • Flu

Where can I go for self care advice?

  • Read our policy explaining why it's much better for you and the NHS if you buy medicines over the counter for minor, self-limiting conditions. You can buy many basic medicines from shops and pharmacies for just a few pennies but it costs the NHS around £50 if you are given a prescription for the same products. And there's more information here on why we introduced the policy after a public engagement exercise that gave overwhelming support.
  • NHS Choices - for advice on self-care options. This site gives you 24 hour, 7 days a week access to expert advice and support. Why not look at the Interactive First Aid kit

4. Talk to your local pharmacist

Pharmacists play a key role in providing quality healthcare to patients. Working in the community, pharmacists use their clinical expertise together with their practical knowledge to ensure the safe supply and use of medicines by patients and members of the public.

You can talk to your pharmacist in confidence, even about the most personal symptoms and you don't need to make an appointment. It is possible to walk into any community pharmacy and ask to speak with the pharmacist. They may be able to spend some time with you. Most pharmacies now have a private consultation area where patients can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard by other members of the public.

Pharmacists offer advice on common problems and minor ailments such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as healthy eating and stopping smoking. They can also help you decide whether you need to see a doctor.

What your Pharmacy is for:

Minor Ailment Service (Think Pharmacy) in Eastern Cheshire Pharmacies

Most pharmacies within Eastern Cheshire offer the Think Pharmacy Minor Ailments Service. As an alternative to visiting your GP, the service aims to make it easier for you and your family to get healthcare and advice on minor ailments at a time that suits you.

Your local pharmacist can offer advice and, if necessary, prescribe medication to treat the following ailments under the Minor Ailments Service:

  • bacterial conjunctivitis
  • impetigo
  • oral thrush in babies (with treatment of nipple thrush in breastfeeding women if necessary)
  • scabies
  • threadworm
  • urinary tract infection in women
  • vaginal thrush

Consultations are always free and confidential, regardless of whether the pharmacist gives you any medication.

If you do not have to pay for your prescription from your doctor, then the medication prescribed for you by the pharmacist will also be free of charge.

If you normally pay the standard fee for your prescription, then this would be the maximum amount you would be charged. However, in many circumstances, the medicine will be cheaper to buy over the counter and the pharmacist will advise you of this.


5. Visit or call your local GP

For illnesses that are not life threatening but you feel you need to speak to your doctor or nurse for advice or to make an appointment please contact your GP surgery.

Choosing a GP:

To find the telephone number of your GP Surgery in Eastern Cheshire click here

If you need to contact a GP surgery outside of Eastern Cheshire click here

Outside of normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP, but you will be directed to call NHS 111. The out-of-hours period is from 6.30pm to 8am on weekdays, and all day at weekends and on bank holidays.

During out-of-hours periods you can also call NHS 111.