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a ae imageJanuary 5 2018

NHS England has promoted the ‘3 before GP’ campaign in its latest operational update from the NHS National Emergency Pressures Panel.

It is urging the public “to play their part by using the NHS responsibly”, and refers people to the NHS 111 telephone service. In addition: “The Royal College of GPs has already set out three basic steps that all patients should consider before seeking an appointment with their GP for an acute illness including self-care, using online guidance from NHS Choices and consulting with a pharmacist.”

The call comes after the NHS National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP) noted that “the NHS has been under sustained pressure over the Christmas period with high levels of respiratory illness, bed occupancy levels giving limited capacity to deal with demand surges, early indications of increasing flu prevalence and some reports suggesting a rise in the severity of illness among patients arriving at A&Es.”

In Scotland, A&E attendances rose by almost 20% in the week leading up to Christmas Day compared to the same period last year. Records indicate that 26,569 people visited A&E in the week ending December 24th, over 4,000 attendances more than in the same week in 2016.

Scotland’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “These figures illustrate the demands being placed on health staff right across Scotland as a result of spikes in various illnesses such as flu. We can all play a part in ensuring demand on our most acute services is minimised however by taking time to think of the best way to access treatment.

“Local pharmacies can help with minor ailments and minor injuries units should be the first port of call for sprains, cuts and suspected fractures, while NHS 24 will help when the GP surgery or pharmacy is closed and you are too ill to wait.”

RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the prevailing cold weather and flu season peak meant the pressures were unlikely to let up anytime soon. “We support calls from health officials for patients to use the health service responsibly. People should only ever visit A&E in an emergency, but it’s important that patients are aware of all the different healthcare services that are available to them if they become ill this winter,” she said.

“In addition to their local GP, there are urgent treatment centres in many towns and the NHS 111 phone service is available 24/7 for urgent advice and guidance. Last week, we asked patients to remember our ‘3 before GP’ mantra and before making a GP appointment for a new illness just think, can I self-care? Can information from NHS Choices or a similar reputable UK-based website help me? Can I seek advice from a pharmacist?”

Dr Anthea Mowat, BMA representative body chair, added: “Short-term fixes, however well meaning, will only get us so far. Each winter the pressure on the NHS worsens, and politicians are not taking the long-term view needed to ensure the NHS can keep up with rising demand.

“We have to look again at NHS funding, which remains well below what other comparable European countries spend on healthcare, to ensure the NHS has the staff and the capacity needed to deal with the pressures it faces year in, year out, but which are compounded during the winter months.”

Links:
NHS England announcement       
Scottish Government announcement      
RCGP comment                   
BMA comment 
Today’s GP coverage of the ‘3 before GP’ announcement                  

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