Your guide to health services

If you have an illness or injury, you may need medical help and advice. This information tells you about the health services choices available.

Self-care

Having a few basic items in your bathroom medicine cabinet can save you time and effort if you become ill – things like paracetamol, a bandage, sticking plasters, antiseptic cream or indigestion tablets. If troublesome symptoms persist or worsen, see your doctor. You can find more advice about what to keep in your medicine cabinet and a Health A-Z on the NHS Choices website.

Visit your local pharmacist

If you are feeling unwell and need advice, visit your pharmacy. You can find your nearest pharmacist by using the NHS Choices website or by phoning 111.

Phone NHS 111

Phone 111 when you need medical advice or information quickly and it’s not a ‘999 life threatening emergency’. Calls are free from mobiles and landlines to this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service.

You should also phone 111 if you become ill after your GP surgery has closed and need urgent advice or medical help.You will be assessed, given advice and directed straight away to the local service that will help you best.

Visit your doctor

If you have a health problem that is not going away, make an appointment to see your doctor. There are 75 GP surgeries across the county, providing a range of services by appointment, including medical advice, examinations and prescriptions.

If you become ill after your doctor’s surgery has closed, phone your surgery number and listen to the recorded message or phone 111 for advice.

Remember to re-order any prescriptions you need in plenty of time.

Yeovil Health Centre’s walk in service

Yeovil Health Centre’s walk in service is a weekend urgent care service at Yeovil Hospital.

Book all non-urgent and routine appointments with your registered GP practice.

If you need healthcare advice outside GP hours, you should call NHS 111, who will advise you about the recommended action to take and book appointments at the urgent care service if appropriate.

Community Hospital Minor Injury Unit

There are Minor Injury Units at community hospitals in Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Frome, Glastonbury, Minehead and Shepton Mallet.

If your injury is not serious you can get help from a minor injuries unit (MIU) rather than a busy hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. By doing this you allow A&E staff to concentrate on people with serious and life-threatening conditions and save yourself the possibility of a long wait.

To find out where your local MIU is and its opening hours, phone 111 or go to the Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust website

Accident and Emergency (A&E)

Only use hospital A&E or the 999 ambulance service for life threatening and emergency conditions. If a family member is experiencing chest pain or has become unconscious, phone 999 immediately.

For more information about how to protect yourself and your family, visit the NHS website

If anyone believes themselves, or a friend or relative, is experiencing a life threatening medical emergency, they should always phone 999 and ask for an ambulance.

You can find health services near you by searching the NHS ‘Find services’ directory.

Get involved

There are many ways you can get involved.

Contact Health services using the NHS website

NHS Choices comments policy

Join the Patient Participation Group at your GP practice. You can work with other patients to raise issues and concerns, and help improve services in your local practice.

You can feed back your experience of using health services and your comments and suggestions by becoming a member of Healthwatch Somerset, the statutory ‘consumer organisation’ for users of health and social care services, which uses public feedback to scrutinise and seek improvements in services.

Or you can take part in one of the nine health forums across the county, where you can find out more about how to get involved, receive updates on developments in health services, and work together with other patients, carers, voluntary organisations and GP practices to raise issues and ask questions.

You can also link up with local voluntary and community organisations, who can offer support, information and advice.

Your local pharmacy

Pharmacists are there to help. They are highly qualified and able to give advice and information about keeping well, medicines, minor ailments, long-term conditions, as well as offering a range of healthcare services.

Find out what your local pharmacist can offer and their opening hours.

If you need help to remember to take your medicines, the NHS website can help.

Your local high street pharmacy can provide confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints, without having to wait for a doctor’s appointment or going to Accident and Emergency.

Local doctors

You should visit your doctor for persistent illnesses and injuries that will not go away, for example a cough or sore throat that you can’t get rid of.

Find out about medicines

The NHS website has a comprehensive A-Z guide to medicines.

Hospitals, hospices and community services

You may receive treatment in these hospitals.

Taunton and Somerset Hospital

Yeovil District Hospital

Weston General Hospital

Royal United Hospital Bath

Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

There are several hospices in and near Somerset.

St Margaret’s Hospice – Taunton and Yeovil

Dorothy House Hospice Care – Bradford on Avon

Weston Hospicecare – Weston-super-Mare

Community services are provided by the hospice teams in Somerset. There is no Macmillan community nursing service. You or your doctor can get advice and guidance from the local hospice specialist nurse team. They do not offer hands on care but act to help you and your doctor ensure you are cared for in the best possible way.

Somerset Partnership provides community health services.

The Marie Curie Nursing Service can provide nursing care for patients at night, as well as practical and emotional advice and support for patients and their families and carers. They are a charitable organisation and services may not always be available in your local area. Every effort will be made to meet your needs for care.

Marie Curie Services

Marie Curie Nursing Service

We offer nursing care to people with all terminal illnesses across the UK, as well as support for family and carers. In Somerset our nurses provide one-to-one nursing care and support overnight for patients in their own homes with a prognosis of about 3 months or less, usually for nine hours.

For people requiring care and support, they should contact their district nurse or doctor, to discuss whether our services are appropriate. The district nurse will contact us via the Somerset Care Coordination Centre 01749 836550 who will try to organise for a Marie Curie Nurse to visit to meet the patient’s needs.

Marie Curie Helper Service

This service is available across Somerset and Bristol. Trained volunteers can visit people in their own homes regularly providing support, companionship and help getting to appointments if needed. Helpers can also provide short episodes of respite for families. The Helper service supports those living with a terminal illness with a prognosis of about 12 months or less.

To make a Marie Curie Helper referral please call 0800 304 7412 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Marie Curie Musgrove Park Companions Service

The companion service is available at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. The service provides emotional support and companionship to those patients who are in the last days and hours of life. The companions also support the family and friends of the dying person. Companions are volunteers who have been specially trained to provide this service.

To make a referral please call 0800 304 7412 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. At weekends between the hours of 10am to 3pm you can make a referral for a companion by calling 0845 738696.

NHS health checks

The free NHS Health Check programme helps to identify your possible future risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and certain types of dementia.

If you are between 40 and 74 and have not already been diagnosed with one of these conditions, or have certain risk factors, you will be invited once every five years for a health check. This is to assess your risk and to receive personalised advice to help you manage or reduce any risk.

You can find information about the benefits of having an NHS Health Check and where these checks are available in Somerset. Visit www.somersethealthchecks.co.uk or phone 01823 261794.

You can also find out more on the NHS Health Check page on the NHS Choices website.

Help with your symptoms

This section links you to websites and factsheets available from Marie Curie Cancer Care and Macmillan Cancer Support which describe some of the symptoms that may occur at the end of life.

Some are caused by cancer and other life limiting illnesses, while others are the result of treatment. You may have one or more of these symptoms or none at all. But, if you have any symptoms that are causing you or the person you care for concern, please contact your nursing team or doctor.

Coping with eating and drinking

When you are feeling unwell you may find that you are unable to eat your usual meals and you may lose weight. Everyone has different concerns about what they eat and drink. So for help with your individual needs ask your health care professional. Caring for someone who is experiencing difficulties with eating and drinking can be worrying.

Marie Curie have produced a ‘Managing loss of appetite’ leaflet which helps to explain some of the changes that people may experience. For advice about your specific condition you may be able to find help with nutrition from the following organisations:

Just in Case Medication

Sometimes it may be hard to access drugs in a hurry, especially at night or during weekends. You may be given a Just in Case box which will contain a small supply of medicines which can be left in the home so that the drugs are available when they are needed. In order to be used they also need a community drug chart. Please ask you doctor if you think this has not been supplied.

The medicines contained in the box can include medicines to alleviate pain, nausea, restlessness, excessive throat secretions (noisy breathing) or shortness of breath.

There will also be some information for the nurse or doctor, and there may be an administration sheet authorising medical professionals to give you medicines by injection if you need it.

The medicines in the box have been prescribed for you and should not be given to anyone else. They should be kept in a safe place, out of the reach of children, alongside the drug chart from your doctor. If you have any questions about Just in Case Medication, please ask your District Nurse or doctor.

Complimentary Therapies

Complimentary therapies can help to control symptoms and help people feel better, although they cannot cure illnesses. Some therapies you may find useful include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Meditation
  • Aromatherapy

Some hospices provide complimentary therapies and your District Nurse should be able to give you advice about local practitioners and which therapies are suitable for your specific illness.

What to do in a crisis

If you don’t feel well, or aren’t coping as well as you want to, or if the person you care for is unwell, you may need some help.

Before you contact anyone, refer to your personal care plan if you have one. This will give you the phone numbers you need and advice about any symptoms you or the person you care for may have.

During weekdays in office hours – contact your district nurse or doctor.

Outside working hours – phone 111 or your local hospice contact.

During the evenings and at weekends or bank holidays you should contact the out of hours medical service. A trained member of staff will answer the call and take some details from you. They will pass this information to a doctor who will phone you back and ask you more about the problem. They will include you in the decision about what is the best option for you. Services are facing unprecedented demand and it may take some time to receive advice and guidance. This might be:

  • advice over the phone
  • attending a local treatment centre, or
  • a home visit

When you contact the out of hours medical service, if the call centre staff or the doctor believe that your medical problem is an emergency they will call 999 on your behalf and an ambulance will respond to provide emergency help.

When you ask for advice or a visit be very clear on the phone and give the following information:

  • Your name and the patient’s name
  • The patient’s date of birth – this makes it easier to access computer records
  • Where the patient is
  • What you think is wrong and the condition of the patient

Hospice support

The local hospices have 24 hour advice lines for professionals, patients and carers who are looking for support. Doctors can give immediate advice to help you with your symptoms and can offer support at any time of the day and night.

  • St Margaret’s Hospice 24-hour advice line – 0845 070 8910
  • Dorothy House Hospice Care out of hours advice line – 01225 722999
  • Weston Hospicecare – 01934 423900
  • Children’s Hospice South West – 01271 325 270

Health transport

If you have an NHS medical appointment, you should make your own arrangements, using family, friends or public transport. If you cannot make your own way to your appointment and have a specific medical or social need, the NHS may fund the journey.

Information about eligibility

Financial help to pay for transport to a medical appointment

You may be able to claim under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS) for financial help towards the cost of transport to your medical appointment if you:

  • are on a low income
  • need NHS treatment at a hospital, other NHS centre or private clinic
  • have been referred by a healthcare professional

You will not be given free NHS Medical Transport or help under HTCS if you are:

  • visiting a GP or dentist for routine appointments
  • visiting someone in hospital
  • visiting A&E or minor injury units

How to apply

If you think you are eligible for NHS-funded transport to get to your medical appointment, phone the Patient Transport Advice Centre on 01278 727444. The phone line is open between 8.30am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday. Or email transport@somerset.nhs.uk