You may have to wait longer than usual for an appointment. If your problem is urgent, you can also call 111 or use the NHS 111 online services in England, Scotland and Wales.
Make sure you keep any medical appointments unless you’ve been told not to go. If you need information and advice about COVID-19, visit the NHS website.
Primary care services
Primary care is usually where you go to first for NHS care. You can access NHS primary care services directly. They include:
You can find details of local primary care services on the NHS website at:
GPs deal with a range of health problems. As well as prescribing medication, they can also:
give advice – for example, on diet or how to stop smoking
run clinics, such as diabetic or other long-term condition clinics
carry out simple surgical procedures.
Your GP may give you treatment or refer you for more specialist advice.
You have the right to choose a GP practice that best suits your needs. They must accept you unless they have a good reason to refuse you. Before you register with a surgery, you can check to see how it compares with other practices in the area. You could also ask family or friends for a recommendation.
You can find a GP on the NHS website at:
Good foot care can help with mobility and reduce the risk of falls. Many people have foot problems because of daily wear and tear, but foot pain and discomfort shouldn’t be an inevitable part of ageing.
If you have problems with your feet because of diabetes, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, you should be a priority for NHS foot care services. Your GP can refer you to a chiropodist – also called a podiatrist.
If you don’t qualify for NHS foot care services, you can find a registered chiropodist or podiatrist on your NHS services directory or at the College of Podiatry.
It’s important to get your eyes tested regularly. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you need to check that you still have the right prescription. Eye tests can also detect the early signs of some conditions, such as:
age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Your optician – also called an optometrist – will refer you to your GP or a specialist eye hospital if necessary.
In England and Wales, you qualify for free eye tests if you’re over 60 or if you have certain conditions, such as diabetes. You should get your eyes tested every two years. Your optometrist may recommend that you have a free test more often if you need it.
In Scotland, all eye tests are free. You can find an optician at NHS Inform.
If you can’t get to an optician because of a physical or mental health condition or disability, you may qualify for a free eye test at home. You can ask for one for yourself or for someone else. Contact your optician for details.
If an eye specialist has diagnosed sight loss and completed a Certificate of Vision Impairment, you may be entitled to concessions, such as a half-price TV licence, free public transport and help with NHS costs, depending on whether you’re severely sight impaired or sight impaired. Contact RNIB for more information about benefits and concessions.
An annual check-up with a dentist can help to keep gums and teeth healthy, even if you have false teeth. Use the NHS services search in your area to find a local dentist. If you can’t find a dentist who accepts NHS patients, you may have to go on a waiting list or pay for private treatment.
You’ll have to pay for dental care unless you receive Guarantee Pension Credit or certain other benefits, or you qualify for help from the NHS Low Income Scheme.
If you have a disability or mental health problem that makes it difficult to visit your dentist, you may be able to arrange treatment in your own home. Ask your GP, dentist or other healthcare professional to refer you to community dental services.
Your local pharmacy
Pharmacists can offer a range of services, including:
advice on treating minor symptoms
organising repeat prescriptions
annual flu vaccinations
reviewing your medications
advice on living a healthy lifestyle, including diet and weight management
help to stop smoking.
Some pharmacies may also offer screening for conditions such as diabetes and allergies, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
Find out more about how a pharmacist can help you and where to find one at:
A community or district nurse can treat you for minor ailments in your local GP surgery or at home. They may specialise in a particular area, such as continence, skin or mental health. You need a referral from your GP or a hospital to access the service.
A physiotherapist uses exercises and manual therapy to help you to regain movement or function if you’ve been affected by illness or injury – for example, after a stroke or a fall. Some physiotherapists also use other therapies, such as massage and acupuncture.
Your GP or a hospital can refer you to a physiotherapist. In some areas you can contact NHS physiotherapy directly. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has a directory of services where you can find one in your area. You can also pay to see a physiotherapist privately. The NHS website has more information about accessing physiotherapy.
An occupational therapist (OT) works with people who are ill, recovering from illness or have a long-term disability. They can advise you and refer you for disability equipment and home adaptations.
OTs may be based in a hospital or the social services department of your local council. A health professional or a social worker can refer you. You can also contact your local council to request a care needs assessment.
As we get older our risk of developing certain conditions increases, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia. It’s a good idea to get any health checks that are offered because they can spot the early signs of these conditions.
Screening is way of identifying people who may be at increased risk of developing certain conditions.
Bowel cancer screening
In England, everyone aged 60 to 74 should be automatically offered bowel cancer screening every two years. In Scotland, it’s offered from age 50 to 74, and in Wales from 58 to 74.
You'll be sent a home testing kit, with instructions, and you return a sample for analysis. If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for a testing kit by contacting the bowel cancer screening services where you live.
Diabetic eye screening
Annual eye screening is offered to anyone aged 12 or over who has diabetes. It checks for eye problems caused by diabetes that may lead to sight loss. Your GP will write to you, but the screening might take place at your local hospital.
If you’re over 65, you’ll only be invited for screening if one of your last three tests was abnormal. You can ask your GP for a test if you’ve never had one or you haven’t been screened since you were 50.
For information about cervical screening in Scotland and Wales, visit:
Breast cancer screening is offered to all women aged 50 to 70. You should receive an invitation before your 53rd birthday and every three years after that. If you’re worried about any symptoms in the meantime, such as a lump or thickened breast tissue, contact your GP.
If you’re over 70, you can still have breast screening if you want to. You’ll need to contact your GP or local screening service yourself.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is offered to all men in their 65th year. This looks for a dangerous swelling or bulge in your aorta (the main blood vessel running from the heart to the abdomen).
If you haven’t been screened before and you're over 65, you can ask for a test. Contact your local AAA screening service in England, Scotland or Wales.
Screening for transgender, non-binary and gender diverse people
An invitation to some screening services depends on how you have registered your gender with your GP. This means that you may not be automatically invited for screening for conditions that can still affect you because of your sex at birth – for example, AAA screening.
For more information about how you can access screening programmes if this affects you, visit:
You can find out more about the benefits and risks of screening programmes on the NHS screening pages.
You may be eligible for some free vaccinations from the NHS. Contact your GP or ask your local pharmacist to arrange one.
You should have a flu jab every year. It’s usually free if you’re 65 or over, a carer or have certain health conditions. Speak to your GP or pharmacist to find out if you can get one.
If you’re over 65, you’re also eligible for a pneumo jab, a one-off jab that protects against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia. Once you've had the jab you'll be protected for life.
Shingles is an infection which causes a painful rash. It’s more common in people over 70. The shingles vaccination is a one-off jab, so you only need to have it once. It’s available between the ages of 70 to 79.
It’s not available on the NHS for people who are 80 or over because it’s not considered as effective for this age group.