What care do I need?
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There are many types of healthcare services and information available in Australia. This article explains how to find the right service at the right time.
- If you are seriously sick or injured: Call an ambulance on triple zero (000) or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
- If you have a minor illness or injury: Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for advice, or visit your GP, local medical centre or pharmacist.
- If you need ongoing medical care: Visit your GP.
- If you need personal health advice: Visit your GP or pharmacist, or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
- If you need general health information: Search online, using the links suggested by healthdirect.
Online health information
If you need information about a health problem, you can find high quality information online. It is important to know how to search properly, so you find information that is trustworthy.
Make sure you only use information from well-known organisations, such as Australian hospitals or government departments. Always check with your doctor if you're not sure about the information you read online.
healthdirect is a government-owned health advice and information service. It provides safe and relevant Australian health information and links to other sources that you can trust.
For more tips on searching for trustworthy online health information, see this infographic about health information online.
Calling the healthdirect helpline
If you have more questions or want to ask about your personal situation, you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When you call the healthdirect helpline, you will speak with a registered nurse who will ask you some questions and advise you what to do next.
Call the helpline:
- if your problem isn't an emergency or if you're not sure
- for advice on which health professional you need to see
- to be connected to the after hours GP helpline
- to find your nearest services
Using the healthdirect Symptom Checker
The healthdirect Symptom Checker is an online tool that can help you understand your symptoms and decide what to do next.
You can use it if your problem isn’t an emergency, or if you’re not sure.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
Going to your GP
A general practitioner (GP) is the first person you usually go to if you have a health problem. They will coordinate your healthcare and may refer you to other doctors or health professionals if necessary. In some countries, a GP is called a family doctor.
Your GP knows you, your family and your community, and they can look after you through your whole life. Take your time to find a GP you like and can talk to honestly.
You can see a GP at a practice. This is sometimes called a family practice or medical centre. Some GP practices and medical centres have a range of different services at the same place — for example, GPs, x-rays, pharmacists and treatment for minor injuries.
GPs can give you advice about your health and provide legal documents like medical certificates or reports if you have had an accident.
Find out more about the role of a GP.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Asking your pharmacist
Pharmacists are qualified experts who give advice and information on medicines and your health. Ask your pharmacist for advice about minor illnesses or injuries.
If your doctor gives you a prescription (sometimes called a script) for medicine, you can buy it from a pharmacist. Pharmacists also sell over-the-counter medicines and provide a range of services, including advice on how to manage your mental and physical health and health checks. They can also refer you to other health professionals and give some vaccinations.
Find out more about getting the most out of your pharmacist.
After-hours services provide care if you need to see someone after your GP or pharmacist has closed. Ask your regular GP if they offer after-hours services, and what you should do if you get sick after they have closed.
The healthdirect after hours GP helpline can arrange for a GP to call you back. They can also help you find after-hours services in your area. Call 1800 022 222.
Visiting an emergency department
Many hospitals in Australia have emergency departments. These are open 24 hours a day and give emergency treatment to people who have serious illnesses or injuries that need to be treated quickly.
Visit an emergency department if you are seriously hurt or sick. If you have a minor illness or injury, it is better to see your GP or visit a medical centre or pharmacist.
Emergency departments will always treat severely ill or injured patients as soon as possible. If your condition is less serious, you may have to wait.
Calling an ambulance
If your injury is serious and urgent, call an ambulance on triple zero (000). You should call an ambulance if you or someone else has:
- chest pain or chest tightness lasting more than 10 minutes
- sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg
- trouble breathing
- uncontrollable bleeding
- a sudden collapse or unexplained fall
- an unexplained seizure (fitting)
- injury from a major car accident
- a fall from a great height
- serious assault, including stabbing or shooting
- severe burns, particularly in young children
- infants who are having a seizure or have an ongoing fever
- a severe mental health concern
Find out more about calling triple zero (000).
Help and resources for using health services
How to find health services
To find health services, you can use healthdirect's service finder.
You can also ask your GP or pharmacist for advice on finding health services in your area.
Help for people who do not speak English
If English is not your first language, you can find a translator through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). You can speak to an interpreter immediately by calling 131 450. The service is free and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call TIS when you are with your GP, in hospital or with any other health service.
If it is an emergency, always call triple zero (000) first. The 000 operator will call TIS National and connect you with an interpreter.
Your doctor, pharmacist or hospital can also arrange a translator for you.
Last reviewed: June 2022