Too many go to GP with minor issues

ONE in five people visits their GP with minor problems such as coughs and colds, according to a report by the Self-Care Campaign.Many people go to their doctor out of convenience or dependency rather than need, at a cost to the UK health service of about �2bn a year.

ONE in five people visits their GP with minor problems such as coughs and colds, according to a report by the Self-Care Campaign.

Many people go to their doctor out of convenience or dependency rather than need, at a cost to the UK health service of about �2bn a year.

Now this campaign, which is funded by drugs companies selling over-the-counter medicines, has won backing from doctors, nurses and health charities.

But what do health professionals in Norfolk think?


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Dr Ian Mack, a county GP and NHS Norfolk's clinical executive chair-man, said it was a topic the trust had been working on for months.

'The report raises a very important issue,' he said. 'When should you visit your GP? It is important that people know how and when to select the right level of care for their health needs.'

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The Choose Well campaign was launched last year by NHS East of England to encourage patients to visit other and more appropriate NHS services.

It came as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital saw A&E attendances up 12pc from the previous year.

The variety of services available can sometimes be confusing - NHS Direct, pharmacies, GP services, walk-in centres, minor-injuries units, urgent care centres and A&E.

By using a colour-coded thermometer logo, Choose Well helps people to understand what is available and how choosing the right service means they get the best treatment.

But how can you expect a patient to know what services are best suited to them when they are not sure what is wrong themselves? For example, if a patient has had a cough for one day, it is probably not appropriate for them to visit a GP, but if they have had it for two weeks, it probably is best to get the doctor to check it out.

Dr Mack explains: 'We want people to ensure they are aware of the various levels of care available to them and when to access them. For example, we want people to know when they should seek help from a GP and recognise when they could deal with the condition themselves, such as with the use of over-the-counter medicines.

'For many minor illnesses, pharmacists are able to offer advice about over-the-counter medicines, but if people have any concerns about their condition and are unclear how to treat it or aren't sure if they should visit their GP, they can call NHS Direct.

'Many GP practices are also able to offer telephone advice about symptoms causing concern. The message is clear - don't go to your GP if you are able to get advice and reassurance from other local NHS services. But also don't be put off from seeing your GP if you have worries that you may have a serious or persistent condition.'

Drawing on research funded by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain - which speaks for manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines and food supplements in the UK - the report says there are more than 50 million consultations every year that are solely for 'minor' ailments. These include back pain, dermatitis, nasal congestion and coughs.

The campaign suggests training for doctors and nurses on how to help people to treat themselves, and public information campaigns on how to manage minor ailments.

The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) say they support the move towards more self-care.

Dr Augustine Pereira, public health consultant at NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said: 'We always encourage people to help the NHS to help them by thinking carefully about the best place to go for treatment.

'During the winter months in particular, we have been working closely with our partners to reinforce this message.

'Above all, we would urge people to act responsibly and use their common sense when accessing health services.'

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: 'This whole question is about responsibil-ity. Of course patients should be responsible about their health serv-ices, but so should every clinician being paid from the public purse.

'It is part of their professional duty to ensure that their patients are accurately informed about what they should do and when.'

For questions about a condition, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or log on to at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.

For details about the Choose Well campaign, visit www.norfolk.nhs.uk/ yourhealth/choose-well.

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