Is it an emergency?

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It is critical that our Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments are able to help the patients who really need them.

Many people visit A&E when they could have been seen by a different healthcare professional. By finding the right person to talk to, you will get the most appropriate treatment.

Before going to A&E, think about whether you should visit:

  • A pharmacy – this can be a quick way of accessing medical help and advice as you don’t need an appointment and you can speak to your pharmacist in confidence.
  • Your GP – if it is a condition that your pharmacist cannot treat, or for diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, prescriptions, medical examinations, and referral to specialist services, visit your GP.
  • A walk-in service – you do not need an appointment to visit an urgent care centre, minor injuries unit or walk-in centre.
  • A dentist – emergency dental care services are available for those in pain requiring emergency treatment.
If you’re not sure where to go, call NHS 111 for advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is free to call from landlines and mobiles.

If you still need to go to A&E

Remember that A&E should only be used in extreme circumstances – if it’s a serious or life-threatening situation. If you access A&E inappropriately, you may be turned away and directed to another NHS service.

An emergency might include:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Suspected heart attack or stroke
  • Suspected meningitis
  • Suspected broken bones
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sudden and severe headaches
  • Severe burns
  • Severe injuries requiring hospital treatment.

If the situation is an emergency and you need immediate care, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.