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Unnecessary GP Visits Put Strain on NHS

Author: AboutMyArea HeadOffice Published: 17th July 2012 11:09
  • 5.2 million visits annually for blocked noses
  • 40,000 visits for dandruff
Reducing unnecessary visits to GP and A&E could free resources

A new NHS survey is set to investigate the reasons why people head to the doctor instead of looking after themselves at home.

More than 51 million* people per year visit their GP with minor problems which would clear up by themselves - or with a little help from an over-the-counter remedy.

Up to 40,000 GP visits per year are for dandruff, while a further 20,000 go to their local surgery for travel-sickness, and a staggering 5.2 million with blocked noses.

Health chiefs fear these unnecessary GP visits - almost one in five appointments are for very minor problems - are draining resources from caring for older, chronically-ill people, and having a knock-on effect of placing A&E and emergency departments under further pressure.

Pharmacy dispensing sign

All kinds of minor illnesses and injuries, from colds to period pains, skin conditions to minor cuts, can be treated at home with advice and medicines from your local pharmacist.

The NHS is surveying patients to find out why they choose the GP surgery or A&E over their pharmacist, ahead of work to encourage more "self-care".

Dr Paul Stillman, a GP in Crawley and a member of the National Self Care Forum, said: "We are not saying that people should not go to see their GP or use their A&E, emergency and 999 services if they believe they are seriously ill. We need to understand how we can encourage them to help themselves for common problems."
"51.4 million GP appointments a year in England and Wales are for minor ailments alone, if we can encourage more people to self-care for common complaints, we can re-focus resources on people who really need them.

Stephanie Varah, Chief Executive of the National Association for Patient Participation, is the patient champion for the national Self Care Forum: "Empowering individuals to access and understand appropriate information that supports shared and informed decision making about treatment, self care and lifestyle choices is key to helping people understand how they can better look after themselves."

The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/N8WQVTV . The survey will close on 30 July. The results from the survey will be published in the autumn 2012.

Illnesses and ailments which can be treated at home with advice from the pharmacist include:

  • skin conditions, such as mild acne and mild eczema
  • coughs and colds, including nasal congestion and sore throat
  • minor cuts and bruises
  • constipation and haemorrhoids (piles)
  • hay fever and allergies
  • aches and pains, such as headaches, earache and backache
  • indigestion, diarrhoea and threadworms
  • period pain and thrush
  • warts and verrucas, mouth ulcers and cold sores
  • athlete's foot
  • nappy rash and teething

* Source: IMS Health Dec. 2007 study, commissioned by PAGB

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