A group of leading healthcare professionals has revealed that people visiting their GPs to get treatment for minor ailments costs the NHS £2bn per year.
Around 51.4 million visits to GP practices every year are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds.
And in a letter to the Times newspaper, the group said the impact being felt by the NHS was “catastrophic”.
The group blamed the “demand-led culture” for putting huge strains on NHS resources, and called for a change in behaviour.
The experts said in their letter that the NHS would face no cuts to services if the attitude towards the treatment of such minor ailments changed nationwide.
Back pain was the most common reason, prompting 8.4 million sessions, with other problems consulted on including colds, acne, constipation and migraines.
Among the letter’s 17 signatories are Professor David Haslam, former chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners; Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance; and Dr John Chisholm, former chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee.
They are launching a Self Care Campaign, and also aims to “educate people to manage minor ailments so that GPs and practice nurses’ time is freed up to look after more complex conditions”.