Your GP practice is your primary point of contact for all medical services but is not the only one. There are also pharmacists and minor injury clinics at local hospitals (as well as A&E for emergency medical care). Neither of these involve making an appointment and many are open 7 days a week. See Make the most of your NHS on this website.
Your GP practice is concerned with all aspects of your health and also advises on pyschological, social or lifestyle issues well as medical issues although this often involves referring you to other services which can give more focused help and support. While some of these services require a GP referral, many can be accessed directly without a GP referral. See Manage your health on this website.
You spend very little time with GPs and other healthcare professionals so, when making an appointment, it can help to be clear about what sort of help you need (see Make the most of your appointment in Make the most of your NHS).
GP practices in England operate as private businesses contracted by the NHS and therefore have some autonomy around how they run their practice. Practices will usually have a practice booklet and/or website which gives details around what the practice offers; how they work; what you can expect from them and what you need to do to get the best out of the service.
The Royal College of GPs have published a booklet called ‘It’s Your Practice: A patient guide to GP services'. This provides helpful information on all aspects of using GP services: from finding and choosing a practice and how to get the most out of a GP consultation to accessing health records and understanding patients’ rights and responsibilities.