A national ‘self-care’ campaign, aimed at diverting pressures away from primary and secondary care, has been backed by the BMA.
NHS England’s The Earlier, The Better campaign runs for eight weeks from today and will encourage the public to seek help early from their pharmacists — reducing pressure on GPs and hospital services.
BMA consultants committee specialty lead for emergency medicine Simon Walsh said he welcomed anything to help the public to understand the services available to them, which might prevent unnecessary emergency hospital admissions.
However, Dr Walsh said 'to make a significant impact, these alternatives need to be simplified and they need to be available when people need them, seven days a week.
'It remains to be seen whether this type of campaign can actually prevent hospital admissions.’
He said investment in community services and social care was also urgently needed to allow patients to be discharged from hospital earlier and safely.
BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said self care was an important part of a wider strategic approach that the NHS desperately needed.
He said: ‘GP practices in particular are under intense strain from a combination of rising patient demand, especially from an ageing population with complex health needs, increased care moving into the community and declining funding.’
Dr Nagpaul added: ‘It is often the case where an individual can safely treat their own minor conditions by visiting a pharmacist rather than having the inconvenience of making an unnecessary GP appointment.'
He said that this would not only relieve pressure on GP practices but also enable doctors to offer patients greater access.
Nip illness in the bud
NHS England director for acute care Keith Willett said: ‘I am really pleased to see a serious attempt to reach out to the public on this issue.
‘Too many people make the mistake of soldiering on, losing the opportunity to nip things in the bud.
‘We see in our hospitals so many people who have not had or sought the help they need early enough.
‘We have to do better at helping people stay well, not just picking up the pieces when they fall seriously ill.’
The BMA launched its own self-care campaign last year. Read the guidance.
Read about The Earlier, The Better