What to do When

You're Unwell...

What to do when you’re unwell – navigating the NHS to get to the right service for your needs

The NHS is there for all of us, but it is not an endless resource. It’s important we understand how to use it responsibly.

Why it’s important

A typical GP visit costs the NHS £30, but a trip to A&E can be four times that or more.

Our growing and ageing population means the demand for NHS services has never been higher.

On average,1 million people are seen in GP practices and another 68,000 in Accident and Emergency everyday.

Of course when we’re ill we want to feel better quickly. 

But it’s not just about speed of service, it’s about getting to the right service to match your needs.

How it works

The NHS is at its most effective and efficient when people are seen in the appropriate places. Within the NHS, expert staff can navigate patients through the system, but it is helpful if there is a wider understanding too.

There are clear and obvious examples – broken bones or loss of consciousness equals A&E, whereas ongoing back pain should be a GP visit. But in other cases, people may not always be sure what is best to do.

The decision decision chart in this section is designed to help patients make the right decision about where to go for help – including considering self-care options, or just seeking advice either through 111 or by asking a pharmacist.

What to do

There are a number of key questions to ask when you or someone around you is unwell.

As you can see from our decision chart, answering Yes or No along the various paths will take you to the best and most appropriate course of action.

First you need to consider the urgency and severity, and only in the most extreme cases should his lead you to call 999 or visit A&E.

For non-urgent issues, you should consider if you need to be seen at all, or if self-care or pharmacist advice will help you.

The final path is driven by time – your local GP practice should be your first port of call if they are open. If it is outside of their normal hours, you’ll need to call 111.