What to do if you’re unwell

Category: Patient

Do you know what to do if you’re unwell?

Research earlier this year showed that many people were unclear about when to see their GP, when to go to A&E or when to use 111.

During a public consultation Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (DDES CCG) found there was confusion amongst patients, especially at evenings and weekends when their GP practice isn’t open.

In partnership with DDES CCG we’re launching a campaign to help people make the right choices for their healthcare needs, and to use the NHS responsibly.

If you or someone you are looking after becomes unwell, there are a few key questions to help you choose the best route.

We’ve made a short video that takes you through the steps. You can also download the full decision chart below the video.



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Is it an Emergency?

If someone is unwell or injured and needs to be seen today, then there are two further options:

If the situation is life threatening call 999 – severe blood loss, unconsciousness, chest pains, choking would all be considered life threatening

If not, then you should call 111. Trained staff will take the call and advise on everything from sprains and strains to cuts and burns. They’ll book you into the best possible nearest service.


If it isn’t an emergency, can you treat yourself at home or get advice from a pharmacist?

Common, milder conditions like sore throats, runny noses, diarrhoea, coughs and headaches can often be managed at home or with over the counter remedies. Visit NHS.uk or your pharmacist for advice.


If you need to see a clinician, is your GP surgery open?

If they’re open, your GP should be your first port of call. Their normal hours will be 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. A trained receptionist may ask what your issue is so they can get you to the best treatment as soon as possible. This might be an appointment with a Doctor, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner or another clinician.

If your local surgery isn’t open, call 111. Trained staff will give advice and can book you into a nearby ‘hub’. A hub is when a group of neighbouring GP practices have worked together to provide extra appointments for patients.


Because hubs are shared amongst practices, they can be further away than you would normally go to see your Doctor.

If you call 111 and have been assessed as needing to be seen that day, but transport is an issue then you may be able to use NHS-funded transport to and from the hub.

It can be complicated to know where best to go when you are unwell, but by asking a couple of simple questions, you can be sure you’re making best use of the NHS services we share.