How to use your health services
There is a whole range of health services that you can access across Northern Ireland, but it’s really important that you use the right one for your condition. The information below gives you a guide to these services – from the types of conditions you can manage yourself, to when you should attend an emergency department for urgent treatment.
Conditions you can manage yourself
There are lots of conditions that you can manage yourself. These include:
- coughs and colds
- sore throat
If necessary, you can stay at home until you’re feeling better and take medication to ease your symptoms.
Things you can speak to your pharmacist about
Community pharmacists are health professionals who can provide you with advice about certain aspects of your health, including:
- using medicines safely and appropriately
- self care for some conditions
- having a healthy lifestyle
Many community pharmacies run a minor ailments scheme, which means they can offer you treatment for some common conditions without you having to visit your GP. The conditions include:
- head lice
- athletes foot
You should find the following page useful:
When you should go to your GP
You can make an appointment to see your GP about a wide range of non-emergency health issues. Things you may wish to see your GP about include:
- advice on health problems
- examinations and treatment
- prescriptions for medicines
- referrals to other health services and social services
GP out of hours service
The GP out of hours service is there if you need urgent medical treatment that you would normally receive from your GP, but you cannot wait until the practice is open the next day.
Minor injury units
Minor injury units treat patients with minor injuries or illnesses. The conditions they typically handle include:
- cuts and wounds
- sprains and strains
- bites and stings
- minor scalds and burn
- minor eye problems – for example, foreign bodies in the eye
You can attend a minor injury unit without an appointment.
Minor injury units do not treat children.
Emergency departments (A&E)
Emergency departments provide the highest level of emergency care for patients, especially those who are stricken with sudden and acute illness or who are the victims of severe trauma.
Conditions handled in these units include:
- heart attack
- major injury
When to call an ambulance
You should always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
Some examples of emergency situations when you should call 999 for an ambulance include (but are not limited to):
- difficulty in breathing
- chest pains
- heart problems
- fitting or choking
- severe loss of blood
- severe allergic reactions
- abdominal pains
- overdose/ poisoning
- traumatic falls