UK Health Services

NHS provides primary, secondary and tertiary care to patients living in United Kingdom (UK).

Primary care

This is the first point of contact with the NHS.

GP practices – Every UK citizen can register with a local General Practitioner (GP) in UK and receive free consultations. Registered asylum seekers and refugees can register with a GP as well. In a GP surgery, you will not only see doctors but you may also find practice nurses, health care assistants, midwives, health visitors, nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Some practices may provide additional services by physiotherapists, counsellors, dieticians etc. When you make an appointment at the reception, it is advisable to explain briefly to the receptionists what your problem is so that they can book you to see the most appropriate person.

For urgent medical treatment contact your GP practice on his or her usual number if you have their number. If not, call NHS by dialling 111 for free from any landline or mobile or contact NHS England on 0300 311 2233.

For emergency or life threatening conditions, dial 999 or attend A&E department.

Dental practices – Not everyone is registered with a dentist in UK at present. To get NHS dental treatment, just contact a practice providing NHS dentistry and ask for an NHS appointment. It is advisable that you see a dentist regularly for routine check-ups even if you are not experiencing any problems with your mouth or teeth. Attending regularly helps keep your mouth, teeth and gums in good health and pain free.

For urgent treatment, contact your dentist on his or her usual number. If you do not have a regular dentist, you can always get urgent care or be treated out of hours if clinically necessary. If you already have details of your local urgent dental service, call them. If not call NHS 111 by dialling 111 for free from any landline or mobile or contact NHS England on 0300 311 2233

Community pharmacies (Chemist) – Community pharmacists dispense and check prescriptions and provide advice to patients on the medicines that have been prescribed for them, for example, providing advice on how to take the medicines and advising on common side effects. Many NHS prescriptions are now issued via the Electronic Prescription Service.

They are experts in medicines and will use their clinical expertise, together with their practical knowledge to advise you on common problems such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as healthy eating and stopping smoking. Pharmacists can also help you decide whether you need to see a health professional. They can help you consider the alternatives next time you are thinking of making a doctor’s appointment.

They take back medicines that are no longer required so the drugs can be disposed of correctly.


High street optometrists (Opticians) – Optometrists examine patients’ eyes, test their sight, give advice on visual problems and prescribe and fit spectacles or contact lenses when needed. They are trained to recognise diseases of the eye, such as glaucoma and cataract, as well as general health conditions such as diabetes. They refer patients to medical practitioners when necessary and in some areas they can refer simple cases of cataract directly to hospital specialists.

Secondary care

Secondary care is often acute healthcare (elective care or emergency care) provided by medical specialists in a hospital or other secondary care setting. Patients are usually referred from a primary care professional such as a GP. Your GP will discuss with you when you need a referral for specialist treatment.

Tertiary care   

Tertiary care is sometimes referred to as specialist care and this is commissioned directly by NHS England under their specialised commissioning programme for very specialised treatments. Specialised services are provided from relatively few specialist centres. Conditions treated range from long-term conditions, such as renal (kidney services), mental health care in secure settings and neonatal services, to rarer conditions such as uncommon cancers, burn care, medical genetics, specialised services for children and cardiac surgery. Patients are usually referred by secondary care specialists.