Using an After-Hours Service: A Guide

If you or a loved one have fallen ill while at home during the evening or weekend, you may find it difficult to access your local GP surgery. Thankfully, most primary care providers now offer an after hours service. The after-hours doctor service is designed to provide guidance and treatment to patients during times when the GP practice is closed and cannot offer appointments. Read on to find out more about what will happen when you telephone the after hours service.

Health Questionnaire

When you call the number, you will be connected to a doctor who will ask you for details of the medical problem you are experiencing. As well as wanting a general overview, the doctor may also ask for specific information, such as the patient's temperature and the number of times they have vomited or visited the toilet in the past 12 hours. You may also be asked to check if there are any rashes on the skin of the unwell person. While not all of these questions will seem relevant, it is important that you take the time to answer them as accurately as you can. The questions are designed to allow the doctor to diagnose the potential medical issue and to assess its severity. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not be afraid to say so. It is better to admit you cannot provide the information rather than making a guess.


Once the doctor has finished the questionnaire they will typically recommend one of three things, including the following:

Follow telephone advice

If the medical issue is minor and non-life threatening, the doctor may ask you to follow advice which they provide over the telephone. The advice will be a combination of information about the condition and the steps you can take to treat it. You will also be given advice about warning signs to watch out for and details of when further treatment at a GP surgery or hospital may be necessary.

Visit your GP

If the doctor feels that the illness isn't severe but that you would benefit from being seen by a doctor, they may recommend that you book an appointment when the surgery opens.

House call

If the doctor feels that the illness means that the patient would be unable to attend the GP surgery, they will arrange for a doctor to make a house call so treatment can be delivered at home.

If you are not feeling well and your GP surgery is closed, contact your local after-hours service now.