The starting point for any health issue should always be your GP. Going through your GP means that all your health records are kept in one place and your GP is the one who can refer you on to the most effective specialist NHS help. If you are not registered with a GP you can find one online.
The online service NHS Choices has a huge range of information about the NHS, the treatments it offers and its structure, as well as tools to help you find a doctor or get information about the implications of any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Choice in services
Patient choice is now a key promise of the NHS. While the choice may in practice be limited and you may be steered towards the lower cost option it is important to remember it is there, particularly if you have specialist needs as a musician or have been told about, for example, a consultant who particularly understands playing injuries and their treatment. There is now some element of patient choice in selecting your GP, which hospital you are referred to, which consultant you see and what treatment you are offered. People with a long term condition or disability may be offered a Personal Health Budget, which can be used to purchase a range of services that meet their personal needs, planned by them with the relevant professionals.
Help with health costs
We provide a lot of help to musicians with the costs of the health-related support they need. We will always check whether there is other financial help available, through benefits, the NHS or your local council. We cannot go into all the detail here but help may be available on financial grounds (through the NHS Low Income Scheme or Universal Credit) because of your particular medical needs or because of your age. We may be able to help you find support for
- Prescription charges
- Dental charges
- Eye care
- Travel costs
- Wigs and fabric supports
There can also be help with care costs outside hospital through NHS Continuing Care if the reason the care is needed is primarily a medical one. There is a detailed assessment process described on the NHS website.
You can also find details of help with health costs on the NHS website.
In an emergency
Hospital Accident and Emergency Units or the 999 emergency number are there for an emergency. These should not be used as an alternative to your GP as a way in to services. You can also get urgent help from NHS 111, a phone number for when
- you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency
- you think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
- you don't know who to call or you don't have a GP to call
- you need health information or reassurance about what to do next
You can also get urgent help from
- Your GP’s out of hours service
- A pharmacist
- A Minor Injuries Unit
Having a say or complaining about the NHS
There are several watchdogs responsible for different parts of the health service. If you do want to have your say, or complain, about the NHS there are three main ways
1. Healthwatch is the new independent consumer champion that gathers and represents the public's views on health and social care services in England. It operates both on a national and local level.
2. You can use the NHS Complaints Procedure. It can be complicated to know which part of the NHS structure should deal with your complaint but you can get help from
- NHS Complaints Advocacy – a free, independent and confidential service to help you make a complaint
- NHS Choices online
- Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) exist in most hospitals. You can find your local one online
- A Citizens Advice Bureau
- The NHS Direct helpline can advise on NHS complaints. Call 0845 4647.
3. If you have exhausted all internal NHS channels you can ask the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman to investigate.