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The Accident and Emergency (A&E) department or Emergency Department at hospital is for major, life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Major A&E departments offer access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although not every hospital has an A&E department.

A&E departments assess and treat patients with serious injuries or illnesses. Generally, you should visit A&E or call 999 for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • Persistent, severe chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped

The doctors and nurses at A&E are highly trained in emergency medicine and have access to equipment and treatments for life threatening conditions. At A&E a doctor or nurse will assess your condition and decide on further action using a system called clinical triage. This means that people with more serious conditions will be treated before those with minor complaints.

For illnesses that are not life threatening you should first contact your local pharmacy, your GP surgery or NHS 111:

  • Your local pharmacy can offer help, advice and treatment for lots of common conditions.  
  • GPs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week - outside of normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP's normal number, but you will usually be directed to the Out of Hours service.
  • NHS 111  is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can advise you on the best local service for the care you need.

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