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If you live in England or Wales, you have access to fantastic medical resources in NHS Direct and NHS Direct Wales - particularly useful for families with new babies and are uncertain as to whether a cough, splutter or wheeze is normal or the sign of an important medical condition!
NHS Direct was announced in 1997, and rolled out between 1998 and 2000, giving faster access to direct medical advice. Most enquiries are made by telephone (0845 4647), calls are switched to dedicatedcall centres staffed by trained medical staff. They will ask questions relating to the symptoms, and then advise on what action you should take. They will advise whether you should make an appointment with your doctor; if they perceive there to be a serious risk, they might advice you to seek urgent medical attention in a hospital or even to dial the emergency services.
The NHS Direct website contains a lot of valuable health advice and information, as well as a symptom checker to help you to diagnose your symptoms online.
NHS Direct will give you immediate assistance and will funnel you to the correct service. Given that most of us don't have medical training, it is reassuring to know that help in assessing any medical situation is just a phone call away.