Your community health care services

Changes to services due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus has changed how health services work. These changes are to keep the public, patients, and NHS staff safe.

Changes to services

With coronavirus putting pressure on the NHS, to keep us all safe, it’s more important than ever to use services wisely.

Make sure you know how to get the right care in the right place.

The NHS is open and ready to help you, so please treat staff with respect. They're doing their best to deliver the care you need.

Looking after yourself

Before you phone a GP, dentist or optician:


All first contact with a GP, optician, or dentist must be by phone or online – please do not turn up at the practice without an appointment.

When you first get in contact to make an appointment, tell staff if you, or someone you live with, has any coronavirus or other breathing symptoms.

When you phone, the service will work with you to decide the best care. This might be by phone, by video, or by making an appointment to see you in person.

Please make sure that you read any information given before your appointment.

Role of the receptionist

The information you give to receptionists helps the GP, dentist or optometrist to plan their workload for the day. Patients in the greatest need are dealt with first.

In many practices, this will mean a healthcare professional may need to phone you back for a fuller discussion about your condition.

Information you give GP practice staff, including receptionists, is confidential.

Reception teams do not make clinical decisions, but they're trained to:

  • help patients get to the right service
  • guide patients through how services work in their practice

Find out more about care navigation

When attending any healthcare setting


  • wear a face covering unless you're exempt
  • try to keep your distance
  • use hand sanitiser
  • wait outside if you're asked to


  • do not attend in person if you, or someone that you live with, have any coronavirus or breathing symptoms, unless told to do so by a healthcare professional
  • do not arrive too early for your appointment

Phone and video consultations

To avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus, many GP practice appointments are now carried out over the phone or through NHS Near Me. NHS Near Me is a secure and easy way to video call a healthcare professional using your computer, tablet or mobile.

If you cannot attend a pharmacy in person, but they need to see you, you may also be able to use NHS Near Me. Check with your community pharmacist if this service is available.

You may need to see a healthcare professional in person for a physical examination or if tests need to be carried out. The team can help you decide which is the best option for you.

If you're unable to use these technologies, please let them know.

NHS Pharmacy First Scotland

If you have a minor illness, a pharmacy is the first place you should go for advice. They can also help if you run out of a repeat prescription.

What is a minor illness?

Your pharmacist can advise you about conditions such as:

  • acne
  • allergies
  • athlete's foot
  • backache
  • blocked or runny nose
  • coldsores
  • constipation
  • cough
  • cystitis (in women)
  • diarrhoea
  • earache
  • eczema
  • headache
  • headlice
  • haemorrhoids (piles)
  • hay fever
  • impetigo
  • indigestion
  • mouth ulcers
  • pain
  • period pain
  • shingles
  • skin infections
  • sore throat
  • threadworms
  • thrush
  • urinary tract infections (UTI's)
  • verrucas
  • warts

You can still attend the pharmacy in person, unless you're self-isolating.

Find out more about Pharmacy First


If you have any oral pain or find something in your mouth that you are unsure about you should contact your dentist.

To book an appointment, you should phone your dental practice. The team will give you advice about the options available.

Priority is being given to people with urgent dental problems. You may be referred to your local urgent dental care centre.

Find out more about accessing dental services

Optometry (opticians)

Optometry practices (opticians) are open for all eye care services including:

  • emergency and essential eye care
  • routine eye examinations

Guide to optometry services (

You should always contact an optometry practice first if you have any eye problems such as:

  • red and/or sticky eye
  • pain in or around your eye
  • sudden loss of vision
  • blurred or reduced vision
  • flashes and floaters

The majority of eye conditions can be managed by your optometrist.

Free NHS eye examinations are available in Scotland to all UK residents. It’s important that you have your eyes regularly examined, even if you’re not worried about your vision. This helps find eye problems and signs of other health conditions before they become more serious. If necessary your optometrist can refer you for any further help you need.

If you’re unable to travel yourself, you can arrange a home visit. Contact an optometry practice about this.

Find out more about accessing eye services


Staff will ask you for some general information to help you to see or speak to the right person in the practice. This may not always be with a doctor. Pharmacists, physiotherapists, nurses or other healthcare professionals may be available to help.

Mental health

You can use our mental health self-help guides.

If you're feeling overwhelmed or need support you can phone NHS 24 on 111, day or night.

You can also contact Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87. They're open Monday to Thursday, 6.00pm to 2,00am and Friday from 6.00pm to Monday until 6.00am.


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