NHS trusts provide a wide range of hospital and community based services - from accident and emergency (A&E) to delivering babies to providing care for people with long term illness or disability.
People usually access non-emergency services from NHS trusts following a referral from their own general practitioner. The care and treatment provided by NHS trusts is free to patients.
Hospital trusts are found in most large towns and cities, offering a general range of services to meet most people's needs. Some trusts also act as regional or national centres of expertise for more specialised care, whilst some are attached to universities and meet teaching commitments.
Trusts also provide services in the community - for example through health centres, clinics or in people's homes.
Together, NHS trusts employ the majority of the NHS workforce including nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, midwives, health visitors and staff from the professional allied to medicine (PAMs) such as physiotherapists, radiographers, podiatrists, speech and language therapists, counsellors, occupational therapists and psychologists. Many other staff work to keep the NHS running 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year - receptionists, porters, cleaners, IT specialists, engineers, caterers, domestic and security staff.