Your local general GP surgery provides a wide range of family health services, including: advice on health problems, vaccinations, examinations and treatment, prescriptions for medicines, referrals to other health services and social services.
Your surgery will make sure you get to speak to a healthcare professional on the same day if you have an urgent condition. If it is more convenient, you should also be able to book appointments in advance. It is important to keep your appointment, or notify the surgery if you have to cancel or change it.
GPs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need to see a GP outside normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP surgery - you'll be transferred (or directed) to the GP out-of-hours service. The out-of-hours service runs from 6.30pm to 8.00am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on bank holidays.
GPs look after the health of people in their local community and deal with a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, offer advice on smoking and diet, run clinics, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical operations.
GPs usually work with a team including nurses, health visitors and midwives, as well as a range of other health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists. If a GP cannot deal with your problem themselves, they'll usually refer you to a hospital for tests, treatment or to see a consultant with specialist knowledge.
You can register with a GP surgery of your choice, as long as you live within its catchment area and its practice list is not formally closed to new patient registrations. Visits to the surgery are free.
It is important to be registered with a GP as they refer you for specialist hospital and community treatment services if needed. The services provided by each surgery can be found in the practice or surgery leaflet available at the surgery.
If it is not an immediate emergency then call NHS 111. 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. Telephone consultations and triage (an assessment of how urgent your medical problem is) are an important part of all out-of-hours care.
Adapted from NHS Choices.