Think which service this winter

Do you know which service you should use to get the right support and quickest medical help? 

As temperatures drop and nights draw in, it is important to remember that winter conditions can seriously affect your health. The NHS is here for you and our local health and care professionals are ready and waiting to help you this winter.  

Think which service is right for you: 

  • For less urgent health needs, contact your GP or local pharmacy or visit for advice  

  • If you need urgent medical help but it’s not an emergency, contact NHS 111 online ( or by dialling 111 for clinical advice, assessment and signposting to the right service  

  • Call 999 for life-threatening emergencies.

Find the right service for you

By choosing the right health care service you can help free up emergency services to help those most in need.

Find out which service is most relevant for your needs by following the links below:

NHS 111 is a free phone number which should be used if your condition or illness is not serious or life threatening (if it is you should dial 999). The 111 telephone service will advise which NHS services are open nearest to you that will be able to help you with your problem. The service is open 24 hours a day, on weekends, bank holidays and during holiday periods.

NHS 111 online is a fast and convenient alternative to the NHS 111 phone service and provides an option for people who want to access NHS 111 digitally. They can help direct people to the most appropriate local health service if they aren’t sure where to go – this could include an out of hours GP, a pharmacy, a local NHS walk-in centre, or a hospital accident & emergency (A&E) department.

When your GP practice is closed and you need healthcare advice you can contact the NHS 111 service by phone or online (111 or where you will be advised of the most appropriate service for your needs. Calls are FREE from landlines and mobiles. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Alternatively, you can access your local pharmacy for self-care advice or visit to find local services for your needs.

Your local pharmacy should always be your first choice for help, advice and treatment for common conditions.

If you or your family become unwell, you may not always need to see a doctor or get a prescription. Local pharmacies offer many of the same services local GPs do.

Community pharmacists are qualified health professionals who can offer expert advice on lots of minor ailments and conditions. They can help you with common problems such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as perform health checks and screenings and treat minor injuries and ailments.

What common conditions can a pharmacist help with?

Your local pharmacist can help with allergies, athlete's foot, insect bites and stings, common cold, cold sores, conjunctivitis. constipation, coughs, cystitis, decongestants, diarrhoea, dry skin, earache, earwax, fever (children and adults), flu, haemorrhoids, hayfever, headaches and migraines, heartburn and indegestion, mouth ulcers, nappy rash, oral thrush, pain, scabies, sore throat, sprains and strains, sunburn,  teething, threadworms, thrush and warts and verrucas.

Other benefits from your pharmacy

  • You don’t need to make an appointment to see your pharmacist.
  • Your local pharmacy will have a consultation room allowing for privacy.
  • By visiting a pharmacist first, it helps to make more GP and emergency appointments available for people with more complex healthcare needs.
  • Many illnesses can be treated with over-the-counter medicines and advice from your pharmacy.
  • A pharmacist will signpost you quickly to the right medical care if you have anything more serious.
  • A pharmacist can advise on how long you can expect to experience symptoms for.

Find a pharmacy near you

Urgent treatment centres provide medical help when it's not a life-threatening emergency. They can diagnose and deal with many of the common problems people go to A&E for.

Other types of urgent care services are called minor injuries units or walk-in centres. They offer some, but not all, of the same help as urgent treatment centres.

You can go to an urgent treatment centre if you need medical attention but it's not a life-threatening situation.

These are things like stomach pain, minor injuries, skin infections and rashes. Find out more about when to visit urgent treatment centres (urgent care services).

Find urgent treatment centres
If you are not sure what help you need

NHS 111 online can help if you are not sure what service you might need. If urgent care is not right for your problem you will be offered alternative services.

A&E – 999 Accident and Emergency departments should only be used in a critical or life-threatening situation.  A&E departments provide immediate emergency care for people who show the symptoms of serious illness or badly injured.  Dialling 999 and stating a medical emergency will results in a response vehicle being sent to your location.


Many common conditions can be treated at home with the support of your local pharmacy if needed. Over the counter products for self-care are things like pain relief, hay fever medication and cough and cold remedies. These items can be bought from pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription. They are also often cheaper this way. You can get them without an appointment or seeing a doctor. 

Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

It's important to get your seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccinations if you're at higher risk of getting seriously ill from these illnesses.

Who should have the flu and COVID-19 vaccines

You may be able get the NHS flu and COVID-19 vaccines if you:

  • are aged 65 or over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2024)
  • have certain health conditions or a learning disability
  • are pregnant
  • live with someone who has a weakened immune system
  • are a carer
  • are a frontline health or social care worker
  • live in a care home

Most children can get the children's flu vaccine. This includes children who were aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023, school-aged children (Reception to Year 11) and children with certain health conditions.

How to get the flu vaccine

If you're eligible for an NHS flu vaccine, you can:

Some people may be able to get vaccinated through their maternity service, care home or their employer if they are a frontline health or social care worker.

You do not have to wait for an invitation before booking an appointment.

Find out more about the flu vaccine and how to get it

How to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine and how to get it


Make sure you get your prescription medicines before your pharmacy or GP practice closes for the holidays. And, if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or any other medication, make sure you take them as directed.

You can order prescriptions via GP or pharmacy websites, by calling them, or via NHS-approved apps. Ask a friend, relative or volunteer to collect medicines for you if you are unable to collect them yourself.

The NHS App provides a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet. You can also access the same services in a web browser by logging in through the NHS website.

You must be aged 13 or over to use the NHS App. You also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England or the Isle of Man. Find out more about who can use the NHS App.

What you can do with the NHS App

You need to prove who you are to get full access to the NHS App. With full access you can:

  • order repeat prescriptions and nominate a pharmacy where you would like to collect them
  • book and manage appointments
  • view your GP health record to see information like your allergies and medicines (if your GP has given you access to your detailed medical record, you can also see information like test results)
  • book and manage coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations
  • register your organ donation decision
  • choose how the NHS uses your data
  • view your NHS number (find out what your NHS number is)
  • use NHS 111 online to answer questions and get instant advice or medical help near you

Before proving who you are, you can use the NHS App to:

  • search trusted NHS information and advice on hundreds of conditions and treatments
  • find NHS services near you
Other services

Depending on your GP surgery or hospital, you may be able to use the NHS App to:

  • message your GP surgery or a health professional online
  • contact your GP surgery using an online form and get a reply
  • access health services on behalf of someone you care for
  • view and manage your hospital and other healthcare appointments
  • view useful links your doctor or health professional has shared with you
  • view and manage care plans


Self-Care can the best choice to treat very minor illnesses and injuries.  A range of common winter illnesses and injuries get better on their own and can be treated at home simply by combining a well-stocked medicine cabinet with plenty of rest and time.  Make sure your home is stocked with common over-the-counter medicines such as:

  • Paracetamol
  • Plasters and a thermometer
  • Cold and flu remedies
  • Indigestion remedy
  • Anti-Diarrhoeal medicine

Be prepared for common ailments by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. Ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help you and your family this winter. Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter illnesses such as colds, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache). Your pharmacist can help if you need any advice.

Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.

Heat your home to a temperature that's comfortable for you. If you can, this should be at least 18°C in the rooms that you regularly use, such as your living room and bedroom. This is particularly important if you have a health condition. It's best to keep your bedroom windows closed at night.

Check your heating and cooking appliances are safe. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they're working properly. You can find an engineer from the Gas Safe Register website.

Make sure your home is fire safe. For fire safety advice specific to you and your home, visit the online home fire safety check website to complete a safety check for your home.

Make sure you're getting all the help that you're entitled to. There are grants, benefits and advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills.

Find out more about ways to save energy in your home from GOV.UK, or call the government helpline on 0800 444 202.

You can also find out more from GOV.UK about benefits and financial support if you're on a low income.

Primary Care Services

Primary care services provide the first point of contact in the healthcare system.  Primary care includes general practice, community pharmacy, dental, and optometry (eye health) services.

If you have an illness that persists, make an appointment with your local GP.  We provide a range of services by appointment, including medical advice, examinations and prescriptions.  For details of your nearest GP surgery and their opening times, please click here.  Outside normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP surgery, but you’ll usually be directed to NHS 111.

Some GP practices are offering evening and weekend appointments at the surgery or at an NHS service nearby if there is availability.  Please contact your practice for more details.


You can book appointments to see a GP, nurse & other healthcare professionals on evenings & weekends. Extended access appointments are available throughout the winter period. Ask your GP practice reception or visit your practice website for more information.

Pharmacists offer advice on common problems such as coughs, colds, aches and pains as well as advising you on the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. They can also help you decide whether you need to see a doctor.

Optometry, also known as opticians, optometrists are trained to examine the eyes and detect any abnormalities.

They make a health assessment, offer clinical advice, prescribe spectacles or contact lenses and refer patients for further treatment, when necessary.

How to find an Optician

It's recommended that most people should get their eyes tested every 2 years.

If you're eligible for a free NHS sight or eye test, the NHS pays for it and you will not be charged. 

Your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist may recommend you have an NHS sight test more often than every 2 years if you:

  • are a child wearing glasses
  • have diabetes
  • are aged 40 or over and have a family history of glaucoma
  • are aged 70 or over

Read more about free NHS sight tests.

Dentists provide treatment to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy.

A dentist can provide information and treatment to look after your teeth and gums. Regular check-ups help to see if you have any dental problems. Your dentist can carry out treatment such as fillings or root canal treatment, if you need it.

Some dentists provide a mixture of NHS and private care. If you are unsure what services your dentist provides, check with your dentist. All dentists have up to date practice information on the NHS services they provide.

How to find an NHS dentist

There is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP.

Simply find a dental surgery that's convenient for you, whether it's near your home or work, and phone them to see if there are any appointments available.

You should not be asked to have an examination or pay for any private work before being accepted by an NHS dentist.

Find a dentist

Find a dentist near you

Find out more about emergency and out of hours dental care on the website.

If you need to see a dentist out of hours
  • call a dentist: their voicemail may advise where to get out-of-hours treatment
  • call NHS 111 to find an out-of-hours dental service near you

Do not contact a GP, as they will not be able to offer emergency or out-of-hours dental care.

If you're in pain while waiting to see a dentist, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. NHS 111 can also offer other self-care advice.

NHS dental costs

If you normally pay for NHS dental treatment, the amount you spend will depend on what treatment you need. Find out more about dental costs on the website.

Mental Health Support

If you are struggling with your mental health it's important to know that support services are available for you to access, whatever you’re going through.

NHS urgent mental health helplines

NHS urgent mental health helplines are for people of all ages.

You can call for:

  • 24-hour advice and support – for you, your child, your parent or someone you care for
  • help to speak to a mental health professional
  • an assessment to help decide on the best course of care

Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline

Information: If you've already been given a crisis line number to use in an emergency, it's best to call it.

Talking therapies, or psychological therapies, are effective and confidential treatments delivered by fully trained and accredited NHS practitioners. They can help with common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression.

If you live in England and are aged 18 or over, you can access NHS talking therapies services for anxiety and depression.

A GP can refer you, or you can refer yourself directly without a referral.

NHS talking therapies services offer:

  • talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, other therapies, and guided self-help
  • help for common mental health problems, like anxiety and depression
Find an NHS talking therapies service

You need to be registered with a GP to get talking therapies on the NHS.

If you're not registered with a GP, read about how to register with a GP surgery.

Find out what help you can get if you're a child or young person who needs support with their mental health.

Whether you're a child or young person and struggling with how you're feeling or you're a parent or carer worried about a child, you're not alone and there is support available.

Children and young people's mental health services are a range of support services available to children and young people. They are usually delivered or funded by the NHS.

They will be different depending on where you live but can include:

  • mental health support teams (MHSTs) in schools and colleges
  • NHS-funded services from local mental health organisations, such as charities and social enterprises
  • NHS services - you may hear these called children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)

Services are usually for anyone under 18. You may be able to use some services up to the age of 25.

Find out more about how to get help from children and young people's mental health services.

You have a choice of who to contact in your area to learn more about the help you can get.

You might want to contact more than one of these places to find out about all the services that are available.

Your GP surgery
Your doctor can help you work out what kind of support you need and introduce you to the right mental health service. This is known as a GP referral. Find your nearest NHS GP

Your local pharmacy
Pharmacists are trained healthcare professionals and can provide advice on medicines, including those used to treat mental health conditions. Some pharmacists can also offer information on local mental health services. Find your nearest pharmacy

Local councils
Some mental health services are provided by local authorities such as your council. This could include services like helplines, crisis support and therapy. Find your local council (GOV.UK)


Therapy and counselling from the NHS
NHS talking therapies services are for people in England aged 18 or over. You can find out about the talking therapies service in your area and get in touch with them without speaking to your GP. Find an NHS talking therapies service

For information on all aspects of health and health care, visit The website enables you to check symptoms, conditions and treatments as well as finding telephone numbers and addresses for most NHS organisations, including hospitals and GP practices.