Caretaking for Loved Ones: A Health and Medical Blog

Using After-Hours GP Services For Children

When your child gets sick during the night or on the weekend and your GP surgery is closed, it can be a worrying time as you weigh whether to wait for an appointment with your regular GP or use an after-hours service. The after-hours GP service is there to review and treat acute illnesses that cannot wait until normal GP practice hours.

The service is particularly valuable for children, as their immune systems are still developing and they often can't fight off illness in the same way an adult can, so prompt treatment can help children make a quicker recovery. Additionally, young children can't always communicate how they are feeling, how much pain they are in or which part of their body is in pain, so having access to a GP regardless of the time of day can allow serious conditions, such as meningitis or appendicitis, to be diagnosed and treated before potentially fatal complications occur.

Accessing The After-Hours Service

After-hours GP services are available on a bulk billing basis, and you can call and receive advice and guidance about your child's illness from experienced medical professionals whenever you have concerns about their health. When you call the service you will initially talk to a call handler who will ask for your child's personal details and information about the symptoms they are currently experiencing. This information is then passed on to a nurse or GP for review. Based on the information you have provided about your child's illness, you may be given advice over the phone from a doctor, such as being advised to give over-the-counter medication until your regular GP practice is open. Alternatively, you may be advised that your child should be seen by an after-hours GP, and you will be given a timeslot for this consultation to take place.

The GP may carry out a home visit, and they may provide some instructions for you before they arrive in order for them to be able to carry out a thorough consultation. For example, you may be asked to obtain a sample of your child's urine in a clean dish, and the GP will test this on arrival to check for a urine infection or signs of kidney trouble. The GP can supply a number of medicines, such as painkillers and antibiotics, during their visit, and your child will receive follow-up care from their own GP.

Common Conditions That Can Be Treated

Common conditions affecting children that GPs can treat as part of the after-hours service include ear infections, diarrhoea bugs, urine infections, eye infections, stomach pain, fever, croup, rashes, chicken pox and migraines. This list is not exhaustive, and if you think your child needs medical care, you should always ask for them to be seen by a doctor either through the after-hours service or at an A&E department.

The after-hours GP service is not an emergency service, and you should call 000 if your child requires urgent medical care.

To learn more, contact an after-hours doctor.