Choose the right care
Knowing what to do when someone is unwell can be difficult and stressful, especially if it’s an emergency. Choosing the right care can make a big difference to the outcome. It can save lives.
There are different healthcare services available to help you find the right expert care.
For minor, short-term conditions, you can self-care or ask a pharmacist for advice. Emergency services are in place to deal with urgent medical issues, where there is a serious risk to health or life.
Emergency Departments treat and care for people with a serious injury or life-threatening condition.
If you or someone near you has a life-threatening medical emergency, call 999 immediately or go to your nearest Emergency Department. They are open 24 hours a day.
Our Emergency Departments are located at:
- you should not go to an Emergency Department as an alternative to your GP
- calling 999 for an ambulance does not get you to the front of an Emergency Department queue – patients are seen based on medical need, not who gets to the hospital first
Urgent Care Centre
An Urgent Care Centre is a doctor-led service that is equipped to diagnose and deal with many of the most common conditions people attend the Emergency Department for.
An Urgent Care Centre helps ease the pressure on the hospital and keeps other parts of the system free to treat the most serious cases.
Our Urgent Care Centre is located at the Royal Victoria Hospital, close to the Emergency Department.
GP out of hours
The GP out of hours service is for people who need urgent medical treatment that cannot wait until their GP practice opens.
DO NOT use the GP out of hours service for:
- repeat prescriptions
- dental problems
- minor conditions that a pharmacist can treat
Using the out of hours service
GP out of hours is not a walk-in service. You or your relative must first contact the service by phone:
- North and West Belfast: 028 9074 4447
- South and East Belfast: 028 9079 6220
A doctor or nurse will return your call and decide on the best action to take.
GP out of hours services are open:
- from 6pm on weekdays until your GP surgery opens the next morning
- 24 hours at weekends and on public holidays
Pharmacists are qualified experts in medicines who can help you with minor health concerns. They can also offer clinical guidance and advise on over-the-counter remedies for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, ear infections and much more.
Before going to your GP, it is worth speaking to a pharmacist.
Where necessary, a pharmacist can signpost you to a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.
Many common conditions, such as cold and flu, are often short-lived and can normally be treated at home with rest and over-the-counter medicine.
You can search your symptoms and/or condition on the NI Direct website to get detailed advice and information, including treatments.
Mental health emergency
If you were or are being treated for a mental illness, you should have a care plan. It will have names and numbers you can contact in an emergency.
If you don’t have a care plan, or can’t find it, you can contact your mental health worker or seek help and support from the following agencies:
Lifeline is a 24/7 service where trained counsellors will listen and provide the support you need. It offers immediate support over the telephone if you or someone you know is in distress or despair.
Lifeline is a service for adults, children and young people.
Telephone: 0808 808 8000 (free of charge)
Samaritans offer a 24-hour telephone helpline if you need to talk to someone:
Telephone: 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply)
National telephone: 116 123 (free of charge)
Textphone: 08457 90 91 92
If you’re aged under 19, you can contact Childline.
Telephone: 0800 1111
Helplines NI provides a directory of Northern Ireland helplines that offer a variety of support and information.
Social work emergency
The Regional Emergency Social Work Service (RESWS) covers all of Northern Ireland. It provides an urgent social work response at the following times:
- between 5pm and 9am on weekdays
- 24 hours at weekends and on public holidays
This is an emergency service to be used only when you need a social worker urgently out of hours.
The RESWS provides services for the following groups:
- children and young people
- older people
- people with mental health problems
- people with learning difficulties
- people with physical disabilities
- families and carers of all these groups
All patients with urgent or emergency dental conditions should contact their local dentist by telephone. The dentist will provide you with advice and access to the appropriate dental service.
Dental practices are required to provide an out-of-hours telephone number where you can speak to a dentist within a reasonable period.
You can ring your local dentist even if you are not registered with that practice.
Urgent Dental Care Centres
Urgent Dental Care Centres (UDCCs) have been established to provide care to patients with urgent dental needs who cannot be seen in their own practice. This includes people who currently have, or may have, Covid-19.
Urgent Dental Care Centres are open at weekends and on public holidays. However, you must be referred by a dentist.