Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has addressed the winter pressures challenging the NHS.
She said: “The entire health service is facing intense winter pressures again this year and with the prevailing cold weather and peak of the flu season, these pressures are unlikely to let up anytime soon – and NHS staff in all areas of the service are working incredibly hard to deliver the best care possible for their patients.
“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. 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?
“These alternatives will allow GPs to spend more time with those patients who really need our expert care, and will help to ease pressures not only on general practice, but also across the NHS.
“Ultimately, pressures facing general practice exist year-round, so we need to see NHS England’s GP Forward View, which promises an extra £2.4billion a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020 delivered in full, as a matter of urgency, and for equivalent promises to be made and delivered in each of the devolved nations, so that GPs and our teams are able to deliver the care our patients need and deserve throughout the year.”