Universal Health Services

There are a wide range of health services for children and young people including GPs, pharmacists, dentists, opticians and hospital services. These services are known as ‘universal’ because they are available to everyone.  To find your nearest service go to NHS Choices and enter your postcode.

If you have concerns or questions about your child’s health the first person you talk to is your GP, health visitor, school nurse for medical services or your dentist for dental services.

Anyone can access universal health services and you do not need a referral.

Building a relationship with the universal health services is important from the moment your child is born and throughout their development.

GP Services

A GP is the doctor that a person sees for general health concerns. The GP can refer someone on to more specialist services where needed and can advise about general health concerns.

Information on how to register to a GP can be found here. It is free and anyone in England can register.

Dental Services

A healthy mouth is important for overall health and wellbeing. Good oral (mouth) hygiene (care) can affect your child’s ability to eat, sleep, talk, and play. Identifying health problems and treating them early enables children and young people to continue to lead fulfilling lives and feel good about themselves.

Free dental care is entitled to anyone under the age of 18. There is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP because you are not bound to a catchment area.

Simply find a dental practice that is convenient for you, whether it is near your home or work, and phone them to see if there are any appointments available. More information on how to find a dentist in your area can be found here.

For children and young people with a learning disability, autism or both, there may be extra challenges such as sensory issues around having their teeth brushed, or the texture of toothpaste. Some children and young people may be unable to describe tooth pain.

Contact have created a parent’s guide to oral health and dental care for children with a learning disability, autism or both.

Some dentists may be able to treat children and young people with special needs in their surgery. However, some people may not be able to access their dental practise because of a disability or medication condition. In this case, the dentist should refer the patient to a more specialised dental service.

NHS 111

NHS 111 can help if you or someone you look after has an urgent medical problem and you are not sure what to do. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They can advise of the next best steps and will ask questions about you or your child’s symptoms, so you get the help you need. For example; going to A&E (NHS 111 will book an arrival time for you so you spend less time in A&E) or going to an urgent care centre or minor injuries units for less severe injuries.

You can access this service by calling 111 or visiting 111.nhs.UK (for people aged 5 and over only).

If you are Deaf and want to use the phone service, you can use the NHS 111 British Sign Language service

Urgent Treatment Centre

The Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) is located next to the A&E Department in the Cauldwell Centre at Bedford Hospital.

The centre is open from 11am – 11pm, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and will offer same day access to GP and Nurse appointments.  The UTC is for when patients need urgent medical treatment but it is not an emergency.  The UTC is open to all those living in and visiting Bedfordshire.

Appointments can be booked by calling NHS 111.  When calling NHS 111 call handlers supported by a clinical team will assess the patient and if the UTC is the right place for the patient to be treated, they will make them an appointment, in most cases, on the same day.  An appointment is required and it is recommended to reduce waiting times.

The UTC treats all ages, including babies and children with:

  • Minor eye injuries
  • Minor illness
  • Urine infections
  • Abdominal pain / back pain
  • Minor cuts and grazes, scalds and burns
Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments

An Accident and Emergency (A&E) department (also known as emergency department or casualty) deals with genuine life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds
  • stroke
  • major trauma such as a road traffic accident

More information can be found on the Bedfordshire Hospitals website.

Health Visitors

Health Visitors support the health and wellbeing of your whole family though the Healthy Child Programme. From antenatal visits until your child goes to school, we work to ensure that your child has the best start possible in life. 

The health visiting team are happy to answer any queries or concerns you may have. To contact, call the Health HUB number on 0300 555 0606 or email  ccs.bedsandlutonchildrenshealthhub@nhs.net. Calls will be answered Monday Friday, between 8am and 5pm, exluding Bank Holidays.

They also offer a free, confidential text advice service for parents, called Parentline. Simply text 07507 331456 with your question to start the conversation – queries will be answered from 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays). 

School Nursing Service

School nurses are part of Bedfordshire Community Health Services’ 0-19 team. Teams are made up of specialist nurses, staff nurses and support health professionals.

When your child starts school they take over their care from your health visitor. They support your child with their physical and emotional needs from when they start school until they leave. School nurses are mobile health professionals, based in community settings like health centres who can support children and families at all maintained schools across Bedfordshire.

Please call the Health HUB on 0300 555 0606. Calls will be answered Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm (excluding Bank Holidays). 

The administrator will ask for your child’s name, date of birth and the school they attend so they can identify the school nurse team in your area, who will return your call within 2 working days.

Eyesight Tests and Glasses

All children will get their eyesight checked as part of the free NHS checks at different ages including when they start school. - these are intended to ensure children don't slip through with unnoticed sight issues. But you don't need to wait for those - if you are worried you can get a free check done.

Getting a professional (optician/ optometrist/ophthalmologist) to look at your child's sight and check what they can and can't see is easy and free. And the professionals can do sight tests even on children who can't yet read or don't know their alphabet - they get a different test which works for their age. And it even works if they have difficulties talking, following instructions or concentrating.

Book an appointment with your high street optician. For children with exceptional needs, Local opticians will usually have specially trained staff who can advise whether they can do a test given your child's needs - they should be able to meet the needs of most children and babies. If they cannot meet your child's needs, request a referral from your GP or the optician to a specialist service at the hospital.


Prescriptions will be free until a young person becomes 16 (or 18 if they are in full time education). If you receive Universal Credit, this is extended to 20. They will continue to receive free prescriptions as an adult if they have the following medical conditions:

  • A permanent fistula (for example, a caecostomy, colostomy, laryngostomy or ileostomy) requiring continuous surgical dressing or requiring an appliance
  • a form of hypoadrenalism (for example, Addison's disease) for which specific substitution therapy is essential
  • diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism ▹ diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myxoedema (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
  • Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy
  • A continuing physical disability that means the person can't go out without the help of another person
  • Undergoing treatment for cancer, including the effects of cancer/treatments