Ambulance, Doctor or pharmacist?


There are many medical professionals that can help you with pain problems, from your local pharmacist and Doctor to the emergency services. The urgency depends on the type and severity of your pain. This article will explain when you may need to make an appointment to see your Doctor, discuss relief options with a pharmacist, or call an ambulance.

When do I call an ambulance?

Call an ambulance for medical emergencies, where a life is at risk or someone is seriously injured or ill. Here are some red flags that indicate you should call 999 for an ambulance. Remember, this isn't a full list – if you're in doubt, always err on the side of caution and call an ambulance.

• Chest pain

• Severe burns 

• A possible spinal injury after a fall or an accident

• Severe abdominal pain

• Severe bleeding that can't be stopped

• A leg or arm injury that prevents the use of that limb

When do I contact my Doctor? 

If you're concerned about the pain you're experiencing, contact your Doctor. Ongoing pain or chronic pain can cause severe discomfort and can be disruptive to your daily life. You should consult your doctor to figure out a treatment plan suited to you. Be sure to discuss any side effects you experience with your Doctor, as they may need to alter your treatment or adjust your dosage until you find what works best for you.

Some doctors specialise in pain management. If necessary, your Doctor can refer you to a pain medicine specialist who has experience of managing pain from cancer or other serious illnesses. If you or a loved one has untreatable cancer or another terminal illness it may be best to see a palliative care specialist. They are trained to manage pain and symptoms for people who are suffering from this type of illness.

Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine depending on your symptoms and the severity of your pain. Be sure to talk to your doctor or a pharmacist about the correct dosage and any possible interactions with other medication. If you think a medicine isn’t working, consult a doctor or nurse rather than stopping or changing it on your own.

When do I contact my local pharmacist?

If you're unsure about any of the below questions, your pharmacist will be able to advise you.

• What treatment option is most suitable for me?

• Will this interact with any other medications I'm currently taking?

• What is the medication supposed to do?

• How should I use the medication? 

• How should I store my medication? 

• Do I need to take this medication with food?

• Is there any written information about this medication that I can take home? 

If you're unable to see your doctor quickly but require urgent medical advice, you can visit your local walk-in centre to be seen that day. If you're concerned your life is in danger, you should dial 999 for an ambulance instead.

Next steps

• Assess how serious the situation is

• Decide how soon you need medical advice - can you wait for a doctor's appointment or do you need help or advice today?

• If the pain is very severe, you or someone you know is seriously ill or injured and you're worried that your or their life is at risk, you should call an ambulance