Guide to health services

With such a wide variety of health care services offered by the NHS, it can sometimes be confusing where to go for which problems.

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Accessing NHS services

In order to access NHS services, you will need your own UK phone number, so make sure to get one when you arrive. You need a UK mobile number to: 

  • call 111 - for urgent medical problems; 
  • call 119 - for COVID-19 vaccination advice and general COVID-19 enquiries; 
  • access the COVID-19 vaccination offers and appointment reminders. 

Do not use a friend or flatmate’s mobile number, otherwise you won't be able to receive advice directly from your doctor.

Check out how to get a UK mobile phone and/or SIM card here. 

On this page:

Self care

Self care refers to taking action to ensure you maintain or improve your health.

Stock up your medicine cabinet with medicines from either your local supermarket or pharmacist so you can take care of yourself. 

Many minor injuries or illnesses can simply be treated with self care, such as over-the-counter medicines, fluids and plenty of rest. Examples include the following:

  • Minor cuts and grazes
  • Bruises and sprains
  • Coughs and colds


Pharmacists are qualified health care professionals and can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses.

If you have a minor condition like one of the following, then go speak to a pharmacist:

  • Minor illnesses
  • Headaches
  • Stomach upsets
  • Bites and stings

There are a number of pharmacies on Tottenham Court Road, close to UCL's main Bloomsbury campus.

Read more from the NHS about what to expect from your pharmacist. 

GPs (General Practitioners)

A GP (General Practitioner) is a generalist doctor, and your first point of contact for all initial health questions, diagnoses, prescriptions and treatment (primary care). 

You need to be registered at your local GP surgery in order to make an appointment to see a GP. 

Read more about registering with a GP.

Read more about Ridgmount Practice, UCL's partner GP surgery.

You can visit your GP for any physical health or mental health concerns. Some examples of conditions for which you might see your GP include the following:

  • Aches and pains
  • Long-term conditions or problems
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Rashes or skin conditions

Your GP will be able to refer you to secondary care if needed. This is usually to see a specialist doctor in a hospital for assessment or treament (e.g. a dermatologist) or for testing (e.g. an x-ray or blood test).

GP surgeries often provide clinics for things like the following:

  • Vaccinations, including those needed for travel
  • Family planning, sexual health and pregnancy
  • Minor injuries and dressings

These clinics are often run by a team of nurses who work alongside the GPs.

NHS 111

The NHS has a helpline available to everyone for free. Call 111 on your phone or mobile and you can speak to a healthcare adviser, who will then direct you to the appropriate services relevant to your condition.

Out of usual working hours (for example, on the weekend), you can call this number in place of seeing a GP and they will recommend your nearest walk-in clinic or out-of-hours GP if appropriate. 

You can call 111 in the event of the following:

  • If you think you or someone else might need to go to A&E but you're not sure
  • If you have an urgent problem or query and your GP surgery is closed

When you call 111, the adviser will take you through a series of questions to direct you to the most appropriate health care service. They might recommend self care, a GP appointment, a walk-in centre or A&E, or they may even send an ambulance to you if the situation is an emergency. 

Read more from the NHS about the 111 service. 


A&E or Accident and Emergency deals with genuine life-threatening emergencies. A&E is known as the Emergency Room in some other countries like the USA.

In the event of an emergency like any of the following, the person should go immediately to the local A&E department or 999 should be called for an ambulance:

  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Choking or breathing difficulties
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Serious injuries or accidents
  • Severe bleeding that won't stop
  • Suspected meningitis
  • Loss of consciousness

If you’re ever in doubt about what to do in a serious situation, call 999.

Read more from the NHS about visiting A&E.

Read more about meningitis.