New Users to the NHS Information

Primary care

Primary care is the first point of contact for most people and is delivered by a wide range of independent contractors, such as general practitioners (GPs), dentists, pharmacists and optometrists, through NHS walk-in centres and the NHS 111 telephone service. Visit the NHS services explained section for more details.

All NHS patients in England are required to make a co-payment toward the cost of their prescriptions, dental care, eye care, and wigs and fabric supports. Find out more in Paying NHS charges.

Choosing which service is right for you at a given time may not always be easy – often you have more than one option. If you’re not sure where to start, use the checklist below to guide you.

For information about conditions and treatments, read the Health A-Z guides.

Ask your local pharmacist for advice – your pharmacist can give you advice about many common minor illnesses – such as diarrhoea, minor infections, headaches, sore throats – or travel health.

Make an appointment with your GP if you are feeling unwell and it is not an emergency.

Call NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation. You can also call NHS 111 if you’re not sure which NHS service you need.

Visit a walk-in centreminor injuries unit or urgent care centre if you have a minor illness or injury (cuts, sprains or rashes) and it can’t wait until your GP surgery is open.

Call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.