Primary Care Services


Local health services, also known as primary care services, such as your local GP, dentist or pharmacist, meet the basic health needs of the community by treating minor injuries and ailments.

Below is a list of Primary Care Services in alphabetical order. Click on the titles to view a brief summary of the services they provide.

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Chiropodists are lower limb specialists who can diagnose and treat foot problems.

Your GP or clinic will normally refer you to see a chiropodist. Each case is assessed on an individual basis. Whether or not you will receive free treatment depends on how serious your condition is and your "risk factors".

If your health or mobility is not affected, you are considered to be "low-risk" and may not get Health Service (HS) chiropody. If you have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or severe circulatory problems, you are treated as "high risk".

If you do not qualify for HS treatment, you will need to arrange private treatment. Private fees can vary but usually cost between £25 and £40 per session.

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Community Psychiatric Nurses

Community psychiatric nurses provide nursing care in the community for people with mental health problems and can provide support for their families.

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Continence Advisers

Incontinence is the loss of bladder or bowel control. It is a very common problem. Continence advisers can offer specialist advice and help regarding incontinence. They can even help you to cure the problem altogether. A referral can be made by your GP. The Continence Foundation (UK) is a charity which offers advice and support to those suffering from incontinence.

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Counselling Services

Some GP practices provide free counselling services on the Health Service (HS) or can refer patients to voluntary or private counselling services. You should contact your GP for further information.

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Dieticians are nutrition experts who can advise on healthy eating, meals or supplements for people with poor appetites. They may work with speech and language therapists to help patients with swallowing difficulties.

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District Nurses

District nurses provide nursing care for patients who are living at home especially those whose health is vulnerable. They can change dressings, attend to pressure sores, syringe ears, give injections and, in some medical cases, help with bathing.

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Flu Vaccination

Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter. For some people, flu can lead to much more serious illnesses. The best way to protect yourself is to get the free seasonal flu vaccine if it is offered to you. There are a number of groups who are at greater risk from the effects of flu. If you are in one of the groups listed below, you should get the vaccine:

  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone aged 65 or over, even if you feel fit and healthy
  • Children who have previously been admitted to hospital with a chest infection
  • Children attending schools for children with severe learning difficulties
  • Anyone living in a residential or nursing home
  • Main carers for elderly or disabled people – you should seek advice from your GP surgery as to whether you should be vaccinated so you can continue to look after the person you care for. You should also ensure that they are vaccinated (if recommended).

Children and adults who have any of the following medical conditions:

  • A chronic chest condition such as asthma
  • A chronic heart condition
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroids or cancer therapy
  • A chronic neurological condition such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or a condition that affects your nervous system such as cerebral palsy
  • Any other serious medical condition – check with your doctor if you are unsure

Flu Vaccination - should you have it?

Each year the flu vaccine protects against the three most common strains of flu. You are more at risk from the complications of flu if you fall into any of the categories listed above. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital or even death. Flu vaccine will help to protect you against getting flu in the first place. You should get the vaccine even if you got it last year and even if you feel fit and healthy now.

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Health Visitors

Health visitors provide advice and support through the Health Service (HS) for older patients. They are normally based at GP surgeries.

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Hearing Assessments

You should visit your GP if you have hearing difficulties and think you might benefit from a hearing aid.

Your GP will check to see if there is a medical reason for the hearing problem and, if nothing is found, you can be referred for a hearing test.

You have the right to have your hearing assessed, particularly if hearing loss is becoming a problem. A hearing aid in one or both ears may be recommended and this aid may be available on free loan from the Health Service.

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Marie Curie and Macmillan Nurses

Marie Curie and Macmillan nurses can support you if you are diagnosed with cancer. They will also help your family manage the physical and emotional aspects of illness.

They often provide palliative care in your own home which means they may offer pain relief without being able to cure the disease.

A referral can be made through your GP. To speak to a specialist Macmillan cancer nurse, call 0808 800 1234.

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Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists (OT) work with people who have a physical impairment, a medical condition or a mental health problem. They have specialist knowledge and can advise on disability equipment and housing adaptations. They can help if you have been assessed as having difficulties with everyday tasks, such as cooking and dressing, and aim to enable you to live as independently as possible.

They can provide equipment to help with home nursing such as pressure relief mattresses or general equipment such as shower chairs and raised toilet seats. Aids are often needed to help with both nursing and social care.

If your home needs adapted, you may qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant through the NI Housing Executive.

You can be referred to an OT for an assessment of your needs by your GP, consultant or social services staff.

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Physiotherapy is physical treatment that can help you regain use of your body after an injury or disease. It can help with back pain, muscle strains and is also used to slow the progression of long-term conditions such as osteoporosis or asthma. It is available to patients referred for treatment by GPs or hospitals.

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Podiatry - Feet and Footwear

If you cannot care for your feet you should visit a HPC registered podiatrist or contact your GP. You can access the podiatry services run by the South Eastern HSC Trust directly or via your GP or health care professional. For further information or to access this service please contact:

Tel: (028) 9147 5137 (Ards)
Tel: (028) 9151 0241 or (028) 9151 0240 (North Down)
Tel: (028) 9250 1214 (Lisburn)
Tel: (028) 4461 3811(Down)

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Practice Nurses

Practice nurses are employed by GPs and are responsible for nursing care, health promotion and education. They may run specialist clinics for illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.

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Serious Illness or Emergency

Otherwise, if you are very ill or the above primary care services cannot treat you satisfactorily, you may have to go to hospital.

In the event of an emergency, please go to Accident and Emergency (A&E) immediately or telephone for an ambulance to take you there.

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Speech and Language Therapists

Speech and language therapists help with communication and eating and swallowing difficulties. These conditions may occur following a stroke or in people with dementia. You can be referred to a speech therapist by social services.

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Terminal Care

Terminal care is the treatment of symptoms where a patient has a life-threatening condition. If you are terminally ill and a cure is no longer considered an option, terminal care is extremely beneficial to help you and your family to cope. Terminal care includes:

  • Controlling or easing pain and other symptoms
  • Improving the quality of life for you and your family (for example, helping you to live as actively as possible)
  • Meeting your social, emotional and spiritual needs (for example, supporting you to cope with the illness and bereavement)

If you need terminal care, you can be cared for at home, in a hospital or in a hospice:

Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast
Northern Ireland Hospice

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