Most injuries and illnesses don’t require a trip to hospital.
However, sometimes you do need to see a doctor or a nurse quickly – and your usual general practitioner might not be available.
In these cases, you might need what is known as “urgent care”.
These might be injuries such as a bad sprain or a burn or a possible broken bone, or they might be illnesses that develop quickly and make you feel ill enough to need help – but not so sick that you need to call an ambulance.
There are different types of urgent care options for you to choose from. These can help you avoid a long wait in a hospital emergency department.
Urgent care options in Melbourne’s centre, north and west include Priority Primary Care Centres and the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department.
Read more about these and other options below.
On this page:
- When should you go to a Priority Primary Care Centre?
- When should you contact the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department?
- When should you call NURSE-ON-CALL?
- What should you do in an emergency?
- How do you know which is the best service to use?
- When shouldn’t you use any of these services?
- Download and share these messages
When should you go to a Priority Primary Care Centre?
There are 27 Priority Primary Care Centres (PPCCs) across Victoria.
PPCCs partner with nearby hospital emergency departments. They provide free treatment for urgent but not life-threatening conditions. They also offer pathology and imaging services on site or nearby. (Charges may apply for these.)
The centres help Victorians who need urgent care get help faster, while keeping our busy emergency departments free for those in critical, life-threatening situations.
They operate up to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week and accept walk-ins, referrals and pre-booked appointments – including people who do not have a Medicare card.
The best way to think about PPCCs is that they sit halfway between your regular doctor and the hospital emergency department.
If your condition doesn’t feel urgent and you can get an appointment with your regular GP, or general practice, then that is the best route for you.
But what if you don’t think you can wait and there aren’t any appointments available right away, or it’s the evening, or the weekend, when you realise you need help?
In this situation, a PPCC is one pathway to receive rapid medical diagnosis and treatment.
When should you contact the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department?
The Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) is a public health service for non-life-threatening emergencies, through which you can access emergency care anywhere in Victoria, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contacting the VVED through its website connects you to doctors and nurses, trained to assist you.
If you or a loved one is seriously sick or injured but you’re not sure what to do next, the VVED is a great place to start. From the comfort of your own home, you can quickly speak to an emergency physician who can assess your condition and work out what to do next.
Visit vved.org.au to use this service. All you need is a smartphone, tablet or computer with a camera.
When should you call NURSE-ON-CALL?
NURSE-ON-CALL is a telephone service that puts you directly in touch with a registered nurse for caring, professional free health advice 24/7, every day of the year. It is for non-emergency health advice only.
You may need NURSE-ON-CALL when:
- you or someone you’re caring for is feeling unwell
- you’re not sure if you should seek medical help
- you’re far from home or a long way from medical help
- you want advice or information about health services in your area.
Call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 * for immediate health advice from a registered nurse – available 24/7.
*Local call costs apply from anywhere in Victoria. Higher rates may apply for calls from mobiles.
What should you do in an emergency?
Urgent care is different to emergency care. Call Triple Zero (000) or visit your nearest emergency department if you or someone you know is experiencing an immediate life-threatening emergency.
If you have sudden severe illness or serious injury, call Ambulance Victoria on 000. The paramedics will give you immediate first aid, and then get you to the most appropriate treatment option as fast as possible.
Your nearest hospital emergency department
Go here only if your situation is threatening to limb or life. Emergency departments are almost always very busy. The doctors and nurses who staff them treat the most urgent cases first, so if your matter doesn’t need immediate attention you may well have to wait several hours before you are seen.
How do you know which is the best service to use?
PPCCs, VVED, NURSE-ON-CALL, hospital emergency departments and Ambulance Victoria are all directly linked to each other. If a clinician in the place you first contact thinks you could be better helped somewhere else, they are equipped to get you to where you need to be as fast as you need to get there.
This means you don’t have to be able to fully self-diagnose when you feel ill or are injured. Make your best guess and if you need a different level of care each service will make sure you receive it.
When shouldn’t you use any of these services?
There are some things PPCCs, the VVED, NURSE-ON-CALL, and hospital emergency departments are not set up to do. If you need a doctor to review your chronic disease management plan, or your asthma plan, or a repeat prescription, they aren’t the places to go. Save these matters for your regular GP. If you don’t have a GP, you can find one on the healthdirect website.
Download and share these messages
You can help raise awareness of urgent care options by downloading and sharing these videos with your networks:
- Urgent care options – short version (Download from Google Drive)
- Urgent care options – FAQs (Download from Google Drive)
Suggested social media post
Have you ever been stuck in a hospital waiting room?
Most injuries and illnesses don’t require a trip to the emergency department. However, you may still need to see a doctor or nurse quickly.
If you need treatment or care today but it’s not life-threatening, and you can’t get a GP appointment, help is available.
Visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au/find-right-care to get the right care, without the wait time and stress.