Too many gp visits for minor ailments, make more use of pharmacy Print

A group of doctors and health campaigners say far too many people are going to see their GP with minor problems, such as coughs and colds or athlete's foot.

The "Self-Care Campaign" published the report which says common ailments account for about 20% of GPs' workload.

It highlights that in England alone the cost to the health service is nearly £2bn a year.

The "Self-Care Campaign" is funded by drugs companies who sell over-the-counter medicines (medicines you can buy without any prescription) and has won backing from doctors, pharmacists, nurses and health charities.

The report shows many people with minor ailments go to their doctor out of convenience, habit or dependency rather than need, which has a huge cost to the health service and concludes that this cannot be sustained.

However does make clear noone is suggesting patients are malingerers and does add: "This does not mean denying treatment to those who are sick but making sure that people receive the services they actually need."

Drawing on research funded by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain - which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines 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, cols and coughs, dermatitis and nasal congestion.

The campaign makes suggestions including training for doctors and nurses on how to help people to treat themselves, and public information campaigns on how to manage minor ailments. People should certainly be making more use of their local pharmacist and pharmacy as well where good advice is available as well as the treatments.

The report suggests the NHS £10bn over the next five years by tackling the problem without any cuts to services.

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

The RCGP president Professor Steve Field, said: "Patients with long-term and complex conditions need more time with their GP to discuss their care and treatment options.

"We need to look at ways of encouraging a change in attitude towards the treatment of minor illnesses so that health care and services are properly directed at those most in need."

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: "This whole question is about responsibility. Of course patients should be responsible about their health services, 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, about aspects of their health.

"Above all patients should be able to rely on timely access to a clinician when they are sick or worried sick. Every primary care contractor has a way to go on joining up the NHS for their patients before they start blaming the customer. We need to get this balance right."