Primary Care Services

Do I Really Need to See the GP?

Due to the rising demand for primary care services, waiting times for GP and Nurse appointments are getting longer across the UK. We need to make sure that we are able to offer appointments to patients who really need to see us. Do you know there are many self help and local services that you can attend without needing to see your GP? A very useful website which gives advice plus hints and tips is


The best thing to help with a burn is to apply cool or lukewarm water until the pain subsides. This can take up to 30 minutes. Please note, you should never use ice or ice cold water. If the affected area is more than five inches in diameter or if the skin is broken then you should consult Minor Injuries or Accident and Emergency.


Unfortunately there is still no quick cure for the common cold. Antibiotics do not help to treat a cold as it is caused by a virus so the GP would not prescribe anything. The best treatment for a cold is plenty of fluids and rest. If you feel feverish or have a headache take the normal dose of paracetamol regularly. Please note, it can take anything up to 3 weeks for a cold to clear.


A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants. There’s usually no need to see your GP if you or your child have a mild cough for a week or two. However, a cough can be a sign of a serious underlying condition. You should seek medical advice if; you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks, your cough is particularly severe or is getting worse, you cough up blood, experience shortness of breath, chest pain or you have any other worrying symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, a persistent change in your voice, or lumps or swellings in your neck.


Chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, but your child will probably feel miserable and irritable while they have it. Your child may have a fever for the first few days of the illness. The spots can be incredibly itchy. No specific treatment is generally needed for chickenpox, but there are pharmacy remedies that can alleviate symptoms.

These include paracetamol to relieve fever; calamine lotion; cooling gels or Chlorphenamine to ease itching. Contact the GP if your child develops any abnormal symptoms, such as; if the blisters on their skin become infected or if your child has a pain in their chest or has difficulty breathing. Pregnant women, adults, newborns or people with weakened immune systems should see a GP.


You should clean the area as soon as possible using water and a little soap. If the wound is bleeding you should apply pressure with a clean cloth to the area for around five minutes to stop the bleeding then apply a plaster. If you have not kept your tetanus up to date you will need a tetanus vaccination the next day. You can either be seen at the surgery or minor injuries at the Western General, 08:00-21:00 7 days a week. If the cut is deep and you think it may require stitching then you should attend the Minor Injuries clinic. Do not present here at Springwell Medical Centre as we do not have the equipment to stitch.

Dental Issues

GPs are unable to assess and treat tooth and gum problems – you will need to see your own registered dentist for this. If you require urgent dental treatment but are not registered with a dentist you may attend the walk in service at Chalmers Dental Centre (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm but must arrive before 3pm). Between 6pm and 9am, at weekends and on public holidays call NHS24 on 111.

Eye Problems

An optician is the best person to assess urgent eye problems, check for eye disorders and treat eye conditions. They have the necessary equipment and training to assess most eye problems and can refer you to a specialist when necessary. If you have an eye problem and already have your own optician you should contact them in the first instance as already having your records can be very useful. If you don’t already have an optician there are some local opticians who offer on the day assessments.

These opticians include Jack Brown Eyecare, (Unit 4-5 Westside Plaza, EH14 2SW, Tel: 0131 442 2333), 20/20 Opticians (348 Gorgie Road, EH11 2RQ, Tel: 0131 622 2222), Anita Glasby Optometry (13 Roseburn Terrace, EH12 5NG, Tel: 0131 313 1400), Boots Optician (Gyle Shopping Centre, EH12 9JR, Tel: 0131 317 1295). These appointments are NHS funded so are free.

Fever In Children

A fever is a high temperature and is the body’s defense against infection. As a general rule, in children, a temperature of over 37.5C (99.5F) is a fever. As a parent it can be extremely worrying if your child has a high temperature. However, it is very common and often clears up by itself without treatment. If your child has a fever, it is important to keep them hydrated by giving them plenty of cool water to drink. Babies should be given plenty of liquids, such as breastmilk or formula. Even if your child is not thirsty, try to get them to drink little and often to keep their fluid levels up.

To help reduce your child’s temperature you can also, keep them cool if the environment is warm – for example, cover them with a lightweight sheet (but they should be appropriately dressed for their surroundings), keep their room cool – 18°C (65°F) is about right (open a window if you need to) and give paracetamol syrup at the recommended dose and interval. Paracetamol suspension can be purchased at any pharmacy under the minor ailment scheme.

Sponging your child with cool water isn’t recommended to reduce a fever. If your child is under 3 months old and has a temperature over 38°C (101°F) or 3-6 months with a temperature of 39°C (102°F) you should see the GP especially if the child shows signs of being unwell.


Headlice are tiny insects that live in human hair and are very common in school age children. Headlice are whitish to grey-brown in colour, and smaller than the size of a pinhead when first hatched. When fully grown they’re about the size of a sesame seed. They can’t fly, jump or swim and are spread by head-to-head contact. Headlice actually prefer clean hair so an infestation isn’t the result of dirty hair or poor hygiene.

Headlice can usually be effectively treated with lotions or sprays designed to kill head lice, or by wet combing, using a specially designed headlice comb. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend an over-the-counter treatment or combs and give you advice about how to use them correctly.

Mental Health

MHAS is an emergency mental health assessment service. MHAS is a nurse led team based at the Royal Edinburgh and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MHAS also provides a service at the Royal Infirmary from 17:00-08:00 Mon-Thu and 17:00 Friday to 08:00 Monday. MHAS is available for you if you are experiencing mental health. To contact MHAS please call 0131 537 6000. If you are worried about your mental health and need advice and support, you can speak to your GP or contact one of the following services: Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87, The Samaritans 116 123 or Edinburgh Crisis Centre 0808 801 0414.

Minor Ailments & Conditions

You can get advice and some treatments from any pharmacy. The pharmacy can provide treatment for many things like coughs, colds, thrush, hayfever, diarrhoea, cold sores, ulcers, skin rashes, teething etc. In many cases there is no need to see the GP and over the counter medication will help. The pharmacist will give you professional advice and in many circumstances the same advice the GP will give.

Minor Injuries

The minor injuries unit at the Western General Hospital is open from 08:00-09:00 7 days a week. This unit is staffed by specialist practitioners who offer treatment for a range of injuries including cuts, strains, burns, wound infections and simple fractures (for anyone aged 1 and over). Tetanus vaccinations and some analgesia may be provided. This is a walk-in service and no appointment is required. Please note that Minor Injuries does not provide an emergency service. For emergencies you must attend A+E at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Little France.

Musculoskeletal Problems

You can self refer directly to the NHS Physiotherapy service by telephoning 0800 917 9390 Monday- Friday 09:00-17:00 for conditions such as neck and back pain, whiplash, strains or sprains, sports injuries and joint and/or muscle pain. Alternatively please visit: There is no need to consult with the GP first.


You can self refer yourself for podiatry for treatment such as foot pain, ingrowing toe nails, joint pain in the foot, verrucae and painful corns. Podiatry Does Not Offer a Nail Cutting Service.

Please collect a self-referral podiatry form from reception. You do not need to consult the GP first – simply complete the self-referral form and send it to the clinic of your choice.

Sexual Health & Contraception

Chalmers Sexual Health Centre (2a Chalmers Street, Edinburgh) offer morning, afternoon and evening appointments throughout the week where they can provide advice on contraception, sexually transmitted infection including HIV and referral for termination of pregnancy. To make an appointment for any of the above please call 0131 536 1070.

If you have symptoms or you feel the problem is urgent and cannot wait, you may go to the walk-in clinic which is open 08:30-10:00 Mon-Fri. If you need advice about a problem you can phone Chalmers on 0131 536 1070 and select ‘option 2 – Medical Advice’. Emergency contraception can also be provided by most pharmacies in Lothian free of charge to anyone aged 13 and above providing they are registered with a GP in Scotland.

Stings & Insect Bites

When an insect bites, it releases saliva that can cause the skin around the bite to become red, swollen and itchy. The venom from a sting often also causes a swollen, itchy, red mark (a weal) to form on the skin. This can be painful, but it’s harmless in most cases. The affected area will usually remain painful and itchy for a few days.

Only see your GP if you’ve been bitten or stung and there is a lot of swelling and blistering or if there is pus, which indicates an infection. If you are bitten or stung, wash the affected area with soap and water and place a cold compress (a flannel or cloth soaked in cold water) over the area to reduce swelling. Antihistamines can help with the itch and can be purchased over the counter from any pharmacy.

Stop Smoking Services

If you would like help to stop smoking there is no need to see the GP. There are many self help stop smoking services across Edinburgh and Lothian. Your local pharmacy provides Nicotine Replacement Therapy and support. You can also visit NHS Lothian Quit Your Way for more information about the drop in clinics or contact them on 0131 537 7154. This service is free to anyone providing they are registered with a GP in Scotland.