Use the right health service for your needs
The NHS in Somerset is currently experiencing a high demand across all healthcare services, meaning GP surgeries, hospitals, accident and emergency, community health services, mental health services, social care and our ambulance service are all very busy.
The NHS is facing unprecedented challenges. We need you to play your part and use services wisely.
By choosing the right healthcare service for your needs, people with minor illnesses will be able to be seen more quickly by using more local services such as Minor Injury Units or pharmacies.
To find out which service is most relevant for your needs please read the information on this page and choose the right service for your health needs. Choosing the right service will ensure you receive the best possible treatment, allowing busy services like hospital Emergency Departments (A&E) to concentrate on helping those most in need.
The NHS is here for everyone and we aim to ensure health services are available for you when you become ill, but to do this, we need everyone’s support – choosing well ensures you get the right care for your needs.
There are a range of free health services available on your doorstep as well as home care and support from Somerset County Council. Many common illnesses or holiday health issues can also be resolved quickly and easily at home or through your local pharmacy.
Minor Injury Units
A&E or 999
Urgent & Emergency Care
Self care is about looking after your own health and making the right choices about where to go for help and advice when you need it. Many common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home – talk to your pharmacist about remedies.
Keep a well-stocked medical cabinet. This could include: pain killers, anti-diarrhoeal medicine, rehydration mixture, indigestion remedies, cold and flu remedies, first aid kit with bandages, plasters, antiseptic wipes and cream, eyewash, medical tape, sterile dressing and thermometer. Find more advice about what to keep in your medicine cabinet on The NHS website
Each season brings with it a number of minor health problems that you can also deal with at home or with help from your pharmacist, advice on how to stay well all year round can be found on the NHS website here.
Cases of respiratory illness such as bronchiolitis in children are higher at the moment. Symptoms can be worrying, but check out our fact sheet to help you assess your child’s symptoms and know when to self-care and when to seek urgent help. Remember, if you’re still not sure, contact 111.nhs.uk or call 111 for clinical advice.
The NHS website
If you’re feeling unwell or have a minor injury you can get expert help online on the NHS website. This is the UK’s biggest health website offering a wealth of health information and services to put you in control of your healthcare www.nhs.uk.
NHS Digital have developed a range of apps to provide you with straightforward information on a range of health issues.
Not sure what to do when your child is unwell? Download the FREE HANDi Paediatric App and get expert advice about common childhood illnesses and how to treat them.
This app gives you more confidence in dealing with minor conditions at home.
You will answer a series of questions about the symptoms your child is experiencing. The app then advises on the best course of action, whether that’s to treat at home, visit your local pharmacy, make a GP appointment, or head to A&E.
The HANDI app offers simple and straightforward advice, for the following conditions in children:
- diarrhoea and vomiting
- high temperature
- ‘chesty baby’ illnesses, such as bronchiolitis, asthma and croup
- ‘chesty child’ illnesses such as wheezing and asthma
- abdominal pain
- common newborn problems.
Download the HANDi App for Android phones at Google Play.
For iPhone or iPad you can download it from the app store or iTunes, using the search term ‘HANDi App’.
Have a look at Parent Zone pages for more information for parents.
You can contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk or phone 111 if you don’t know who to call for medical help, if you don’t have a GP to call, or if your surgery is closed, or if you need medical advice or reassurance about what to do next.
In a serious or life threatening situation call 999.
Calls to NHS 111 are free, although mobile users will require a minimum of 1p credit. If you would benefit from the assistance of a BSL/English interpreter, you can use the free NHS 111 BSL service. Click here for more information.
Cases of respiratory illness in children such as bronchiolitis are higher than usual for this time of year, so call NHS 111 if your child:
- struggles to breath.
- has taken less than half their usual amount of food during the last 2 or 3 feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
- The child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
You can visit your local pharmacy where fully trained health professionals will provide on-the-spot confidential advice. You don’t need an appointment and they can advise on the best medicines for many common illnesses.
To find your nearest pharmacy visit https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/pharmacy
For bank holiday opening hours, visit the NHS England website.
You can make an appointment with your GP for illnesses and injuries which aren’t life-threatening, but which won’t go away.
GPs provide medical advice, examinations and prescriptions, and you can speak to your GP or practice nurse over the phone. GP surgeries are generally open 8.00am – 6.30pm weekdays. If you need a GP outside of these hours go online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111.
GP surgeries also offer online services where you can book routine appointments, order repeat prescriptions and access your medical record via the internet. Read more about GP online services.
If you’re not already registered with a GP find out more about how to register with a GP surgery.
GP surgeries and community pharmacies are under considerable demand at the moment, and repeat prescribing is a significant part of GPs’ and community pharmacy’s daily workload. Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) has been shown to save GP time spent on repeat prescriptions and to be more convenient for patients.
You might be suitable for eRD if you get regular or repeat medicines that don’t change. eRD means your GP can send your regular or repeat prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy of your choice.
Find out more about electronic repeat dispensing – Electronic Prescription Service
Minor Injury Unit (MIU)
If you need to see someone straight away for a minor injury visit your local minor injury unit.
In Somerset, there are seven Minor Injury Units at community hospitals in Bridgwater, Burnham on Sea, Chard, Frome, Glastonbury, Minehead and Shepton Mallet.
Using your local MIU instead of A&E can also cut down on how long you have to wait for treatment. If you’re not sure where you should be going, you can always go online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111 for advice.
Our team of Emergency Nurse Practitioners see, assess, diagnose and treat a wide range of non-life threatening minor illnesses and injuries. Common examples include:
- Chest infections
- Throat infections
- Eye infections
- Urinary infections
- Emergency contraception
- Sprains and strains
- Broken bones
999/A&E Emergency Department
A&E Emergency Departments are for life threatening illnesses and injuries only. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Dialling 999 or going to A&E if you don’t need to could delay treatment for someone more seriously ill than you are.
If you have a life threatening illness or injury, there are A&E Emergency Departments at:
What to expect from hospital services
If you, or someone you know, needs mental health support and guidance you can contact the following:
- Samaritans provide confidential emotional support if you are anxious, depressed or suicidal. Call the 24-hour helpline 08457 90 90 90
- MIND Infoline offers advice and support information. Lines are open 9.00am – 6.00pm Mon – Fri except bank holidays. Call 0300 123 3393
- Saneline is a national out-of-hours mental health helpline offering emotional support for people in mental distress. They are open between everyday between 4.30pm – 10.30pm. Call 0300 304 7000
- MindLine Somerset is a confidential listening services providing a safe place to talk if you, or someone you know, is in distress. Their emotional support and mental health helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 01823 276 892
- MindLine Trans+ provide confidential emotional, mental health support helpline and signposting service for people who identify as Trans, A Gender, Gender Fluid, Non-binary. Lines are open Mondays and Friday evenings between 8.00pm and midnight. Call 0300 330 5468
Somerset NHS Foundation Trust provide a range of services across the county to support people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Visit their website for more information: Mental health crisis – Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (somersetft.nhs.uk)
If you are concerned about an immediate risk of harm – either to yourself or someone else – then phone 999.
If you have dental pain or toothache and your dental surgery is closed, go online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111 for advice.
If you are not registered with a dentist. You can search online to find your nearest dentist taking on NHS patients.
Holiday health in Somerset
For advice and care on most minor illnesses such as hay fever and insect bites and stings, you can visit your local community pharmacy and speak to a highly experienced pharmacist who can give you advice and recommend products and medication.
If you’re away from home on holiday, make sure that you’ve got some essentials with you including plasters, paracetamol, antiseptic, and order enough of your regular medication from your own GP ahead of your stay away.
Forgot your medication? Pharmacists can arrange an emergency supply of medications if you forget to renew your prescription or bring your medication on holiday, even if you don’t live in Somerset. You can also order a prescription online.
Need health advice from a GP? Anyone who is either on holiday, or visiting from another part of the country is asked to call their own GP, and not the one closest to where they’re staying in Somerset. Your GP will be able to arrange an appointment online or over the phone and can arrange for a prescription to be sent to a pharmacy near where you are staying if necessary.
For people who need urgent – but not emergency – medical care when their own GP is not open, and don’t think they can wait, go online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111 at any time day or night.
Anyone with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries should dial 999.
Help from your council
You can access a range of health and care help and support and support from your local authority.
Somerset County Council offer a coronavirus helpline which is available from 8.30am to 5.30pm every day, including weekends.
Phone: 0300 790 6275
To report a child or an adult at risk, including weekends and public holidays please phone 0300 123 2224
Somerset Acute Community Eyecare Scheme (ACES)
CES is a free service available to all patients registered with a Somerset GP. The service provides patients experiencing recently occurring medical eye conditions with appropriate treatment closer to home. The service is provided by local optometrists with the specialist knowledge and skills to carry out this work at a locally approved opticians.
Urgent and Emergency Care
We commission a range of services that the public can use to help access care in an urgent and emergency care crisis, ranging from telephone triaging via 111 to two full Accident and Emergency Departments. All of the services whilst commissioned independently are designed to be an integrated system providing same-day urgent care services for the population of Somerset.
Accident and Emergency Departments
There are two A+E departments in Somerset, one in Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton and one in Yeovil District Hospital, their websites are listed below:
Our Emergency Departments are both open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone seeking treatment for an urgent problem caused by an accident or illness. You should be aware that our Emergency Department can be very busy.
Examples of conditions appropriate for treatment in an Emergency Department are:
- Chest pain
- Sudden onset weakness or speech difficulties
- Major trauma such as road traffic accidents
- Severe or sudden onset shortness of breath
- Unconsciousness / reduced consciousness
- Severe abdominal pain or injuries
- Recent minor injuries
People who use emergency services for minor problems may prevent others with emergencies from getting immediate care. If you attend an Emergency Department/A&E and your condition is not an emergency, you may be advised to contact your own family doctor or GP. There is guidance on when it is appropriate to visit an A and E department and this can be found here.
GP urgent care slots
GPs are required to provide a number of Urgent Care slots that can be booked either on the day directly via GP surgeries, or something that will be new for 2020 is that we will start to offer the option to book urgent care slots through the 111 telephone system. This has yet to be rolled out, but the aim is that by the end of the year this would be in place.
Technology and the future
We are investigating new technology that is on offer to improve your access to our services and are currently reviewing the possibilities that are available. This includes the option of apps to allow the public to see waiting times at A+E and MIU services, and also a public view of all the services that are commissioned by NHS Somerset.