Urgent and Emergency Care

Helping people in Cornwall get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

Choosing the best place to get treatment

If it is not a life-threatening emergency, please consider other options before dialling 999 or coming to the Emergency Department. This allows emergency staff to concentrate on people whose lives are at risk, and could also save you a long wait.

This page explains your options for getting urgent medical treatment or advice in Cornwall. Click on the relevant drop-down box for more information and advice on where to get help.

If you’re still not sure what to do or where to go, you can always call 111 for advice, for free, at any time of day or night.

What to do if…

Someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk

If someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk, call 999 straight away. This could include;

If it is not a life-threatening emergency and you or the person you are with does not need immediate medical attention, please consider other options before dialling 999. By choosing the most appropriate place for care, it helps the ambulance service respond to the people that need help the most.

You need medical help fast but it’s not a life-threatening situation

Call 111 if you;

  • need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency,
  • need to speak to a GP out of normal hours (before 8am, after 6.30pm or on a weekend),
  • don’t have a GP to call,
  • or don’t know who to call and you need health information or reassurance about what to do next.

Don’t call 111;

  • to book a daytime appointment with your GP – call your surgery direct.
  • to arrange a repeat prescription – speak to your GP or a pharmacist.
  • for test results – call your GP or the relevant hospital department.
  • if a health professional has given you a number to call for a particular condition – you should continue to use that number.

You can call 111 any time of the day. The call is free, from landlines and mobiles.

Need some help with the call?

British Sign Language

Connect with a BSL interpreter via video call. The interpreter will phone a 111 adviser on your behalf and relay your conversation with them. You can access this service on a computer with a webcam, or via the InterpreterNow app on a smartphone or tablet.

Textphone

If you have difficulties communicating or hearing, you can use the NHS 111 service through a textphone by calling 1800 1111.

Calls are connected to the TextDirect system and the textphone will display messages to tell you what’s happening. A typetalk relay assistant will automatically join the call. They’ll talk back what you’ve typed to the NHS 111 adviser and, in return, type back the adviser’s conversation so you can read it on your textphone’s display or computer.

Other languages

If you don’t speak English, tell the adviser what language you want to speak and they will get you an interpreter.

You have an injury

If your injury is not serious, rather than going to the Emergency Department, you can get help from a minor injury unit or urgent care centre. This allows ED staff to concentrate on people with serious, life-threatening conditions, and can also potentially save you a long wait.

Minor injury units and urgent care centres are usually led by nurses, and an appointment is not necessary. Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust runs the Urgent Care Centre at our West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance. Cornwall also has a number of Minor Injury Units, run by Cornwall Foundation Trust at the county’s community hospitals.

Minor Injury Units and the Urgent Care Centre cannot treat:

  • chest pain
  • major injuries
  • breathing difficulties
  • problems usually dealt with by a GP
  • stomach pains
  • gynaecological problems
  • pregnancy problems
  • allergic reactions
  • overdoses
  • alcohol-related problems
  • mental health problems – see the section below on what to do in a mental health crisis
  • conditions likely to require hospital admission

Urgent Care Centre and Minor Injury Units in Cornwall

You have an illness that won’t go away

Your General Practitioner, or GP, is the best place to go if you have an illness that isn’t life threatening, but that won’t go away. They will be able to assess you, and either give you advice, prescribe treatment or, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. If you aren’t registered with a GP, you can find a GP practice and information on how to register on NHS Choices.

Save yourself a trip to your GP

For mild, short term illnesses and complaints such as coughs, colds, hangovers, sore throats, sunburn, upset stomachs and aches and pains, there’s usually no need to see your GP and they can usually be treated at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet and plenty of rest.

Pharmacists

If your symptoms aren’t serious, but you’d still like some advice, pharmacists can advise you on a range of common conditions including coughs, colds, sore throats, earache, nappy rash, conjunctivitis (red eye), cystitis (bladder infection), diarrhoea and impetigo.

They can also help with;

  • your medicines, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines,
  • emergency contraception and pregnancy testing,
  • advice on healthy living, including stopping smoking, losing weight and sexual health,
  • an emergency supply of medicines if you forgot to renew your prescription or bring your medication on holiday, even if you don’t live in Cornwall.

Pharmacies are often open late in the evenings and at weekends. You don’t need an appointment, you can just walk in. Most pharmacies have a private consultation area where you can discuss issues without being overheard. And if they think it’s still best you see a doctor, they’ll tell you.

You can search for your nearest pharmacies and their opening hours on the NHS Choices website or text the word ‘Pharmacy’ to 64746 to receive a text with details of your nearest three pharmacies for free.

Remember to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have taken, or are taking, any self-care treatment.

Call 111 if;

  • your problem is not life threatening, but can’t wait until your GP surgery is next open – they can assess you and arrange an out-of-hours appointment if necessary,
  • you’re visiting Cornwall and need to see a GP before you get home,
  • you’re not sure whether you should see a doctor.

Someone is having a mental health crisis

A mental health crisis often means that you no longer feel able to cope or be in control of your situation. You may feel great emotional distress or anxiety, can’t cope with day-to-day life or work, think about suicide or self-harm, or experience hallucinations and hearing voices.

Do you have a crisis plan?

If you have, or the person you’re concerned about has a care plan that states who to contact in a crisis, follow your plan.

If you’ve had thoughts of self-harming or are feeling suicidal, contact someone you trust immediately. This could be a friend or relative, or your GP or mental health support worker.

Call 999 or go to the Emergency Department if;

  • the situation is life-threatening,
  • you are worried about your safety,
  • you are close to acting on suicidal thoughts,
  • or you have seriously harmed yourself and need immediate help.

The Emergency Department team will tend to your immediate physical and mental health needs and get in contact with local on-call mental health services. The team in charge of your care will assess you, decide on the best course of action, and whether you can go home or need to be admitted to hospital.

Call your GP and ask for an emergency appointment if;

  • you have a sudden deterioration of an existing mental health problem,
  • you experience a mental health problem for the first time,
  • someone has self-harmed but it doesn’t appear to be life-threatening, or is talking about wanting to self-harm,
  • a person shows signs of onset dementia
  • or a person is experiencing domestic violence or physical, sexual or emotional abuse

In a crisis, your practice should be able to offer you an appointment with the first available doctor. You’ll need immediate expert assessment to identify the best course of action and stop you getting worse.

Call 111 if;

  • it is out of hours (between 6pm and 8.30am or at the weekend) and can’t wait until your GP surgery is next open,
  • or you’d prefer not to contact your GP.

If you need support right away

You can call the Samaritans, in confidence, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call them free on 116 123. Callers who are deaf or who have hearing or speech impairments can email jo@samaritans.org or use the Next Generation Text (NGT) service.

The NHS Choices website also has a mental health helpline page with a list of organisations you can call for immediate assistance. These are helplines with specially trained volunteers who’ll listen to you, understand what you’re going through, and help you through the immediate crisis.

You need urgent dental care

If you think you need urgent dental treatment, and you are already registered with a dentist, contact them on their usual number. Even if it is out of hours, they will have a procedure in place for emergencies, and should have details of this on their answerphone message.

Call 111 if;

  • you are not registered with a dentist,
  • or you are visiting Cornwall and it can’t wait until you get home.

111 can put you in touch with a local emergency dental service. Don’t contact your GP, as they don’t offer urgent or emergency dental care.

Only visit the emergency department in serious circumstances, such as;

  • severe pain,
  • heavy bleeding,
  • or injuries to the face, mouth or teeth.

If you’re not sure whether you should go to the emergency department, please call 111 who will be able to advise you.

Register with a dentist for routine dental care

It’s important to see a dentist for a check up on a regular basis as it can help identify and prevent future problems with your teeth, gums and mouth. If you would like help to find an NHS dentist for routine dental care, please contact the Devon and Cornwall Dental Helpline on 0333 006 3300 or devondentalhelpline@nhs.net.

You're visiting Cornwall and need medical help

If you’re visiting Cornwall and need medical help, you can still access a range of healthcare options including GPs and emergency dentists. This page covers them all, but if you’re still unsure, you can call 111 at any time of night or day and they can help you find the best local treatment option.

Forgot your medication?

Pharmacists can arrange an emergency supply of medicines if you forget to renew your prescription or bring your medication on holiday, even if you don’t live in Cornwall. Find your nearest pharmacy here. You can search for your nearest pharmacies and their opening hours on the NHS Choices website or text the word ‘Pharmacy’ to 64746 to receive a text with details of your nearest three pharmacies for free.

Need to see a GP or dentist?

If you’re on holiday in Cornwall, and need to see a GP or a dentist, please call 111 and we can help you find the best place to go.

If you’re staying for slightly longer, up to three months, you can also ask a GP to register you as a temporary resident. You can find details of your nearest GP here, and information about temporary registration here.