Primary care

Your GP

Your GP is usually your first port of call for NHS care. GPs deal with a range of health problems and, as well as prescribing medication, they can also:

  • give advice on smoking and diet
  • run clinics, such as diabetic or other long-term condition clinics
  • give vaccinations
  • carry out simple surgical procedures

Your GP may give you treatment or refer you for more specialist advice.

To find a GP, check the NHS website. Before you register with a surgery you can check to see how it compares with other practices in the area.

Every patient is allocated a named GP, although you won’t necessarily always see that person. Many GP practices now offer online services, such as appointment booking and repeat prescription ordering.

If you cannot speak to your GP and urgently need help and advice and the situation isn’t life-threatening, you can call NHS 111. You can also visit a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit if you have a minor injury or illness and can’t wait until your GP surgery is open.

Foot care

Good foot care can help with mobility and reduce the risk of falls. Many people have foot problems as a result 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, contact the College of Podiatry to find a registered chiropodist or podiatrist in your area.

Eye care

It’s important to get your eyes tested regularly. If you, like many older people, have to wear glasses or contact lenses, you need to check that you still have the right prescription. You can find a local optician on the NHS website.

Eye tests can also detect the early signs of some conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • cataracts
  • age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Your optician will refer you to your GP or a specialist eye hospital if necessary.

You are eligible for a free eye test:

  • every two years if you are over 60 or have diabetes or are over 40 and have a family history of glaucoma
  • every year if you’re 70 or over.

If you can’t visit an optician because of a physical or mental disability, you may be eligible for a free eye test at home. You can request one for yourself or on behalf of someone else. Contact your optician for details. You can find more information about free eye tests on the NHS website.

You may qualify for some services at reduced rates if an eye specialist has diagnosed sight loss and completed a Certificate of Vision Impairment. Contact the Royal National Institute for the Blind for more information. The RNIB has also produced a cataract toolkit to help people recognise the symptoms, get the most from hospital appointments and access surgery.

Dental care

An annual check-up with a dentist can help to keep gums and teeth healthy even if you have false teeth.

You will have to pay for dental care unless you receive Pension Guarantee Credit or qualify for help from the NHS Low Income Scheme. To find a local NHS dentist use the NHS choices service search. If you can’t find a dentist who accepts NHS patients, you may have to go on a waiting list or pay privately for treatment.

If you have a mobility problem that makes it difficult to visit your dentist, you may be able to arrange for a dentist to treat you in your own home. Contact your local NHS area team to ask about community dental services where you live.

Community care services

Community nurses

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. To access the service, you need to be referred by your GP or a hospital.


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. Some physiotherapists also use other therapies, such as massage and acupuncture.

You can be referred to a physiotherapist by your GP or a hospital or in some areas you can contact NHS physiotherapy directly. You can also pay to see a physiotherapist privately. Contact the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy to find one in your area.

Occupational therapists

An occupational therapist (OT) works with people who are ill, recovering from illness or have a chronic disability. They can advise you and refer you to receive disability equipment and home adaptations.

OTs may be based in a hospital or the social services department of your local council. You can be referred by a health professional or a social worker. You can also contact your local council to request a needs assessment.


Next steps

For more information about health services go to the NHS website

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