The NHS should consider refusing to treat patients who turn up at accident and emergency with minor problems, a group of MPs and peers have said.
The controversial move should be looked at alongside a wider education drive to help people manage their own health issues better.
“If we have any chance of changing behaviour we must support people to become empowered and health literate”
The suggestion comes in a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health, which is co-chaired by Tory MP Nick de Bois and Labour’s Kevin Barron.
The politicians call for more strategic thinking and planning across the health service to deal with the winter surge in patients seeking treatment for viruses and infections.
“Also necessary are measures to empower patients and the public, to help them understand how to look after their own health and their family’s health, especially during winter,” the report said.
“Self-care education must be part of the winter pressures solution to help reduce workload in general practice. It will also free-up capacity in A&E for those presenting with symptoms of common ailments, and long-term conditions.
“Emergency bed admissions can also be reduced if people are taught to manage their more serious health conditions.”
The group added: “We should even go as far as to consider not treating people in A&E unless they present with symptoms that are emergencies.
“If we have any chance of changing behaviour we must support people to become empowered and health literate.”