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Minor ailments 'costing NHS £2bn'


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”.


Readers' comments (6)

  • I sometimes wish I kept a magic wand in my desk drawer for the patients who come in with such great expectations that a visit to me will instantly resolve their coughs, colds, bruised knees etc.

    Common sense seems to have been lost along with the wise women of a family who had home remedies to help relieve minor ailments and injuries.

    Could it be because we are so accessible and 'free' rather than having to go and buy paracetamol or cream? However, the patient's do leave with a greater confidence and understanding of self care after a visit and hopefully will feel able to deal with a similar problem another time. No time is ever wasted if a worried patient is reassured and given the confidence that they are doing the right thing.

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  • I have been working in a Walk-in Centre for the past 10 years and agree entirely with the comments expressed in the first two paragraphs above,

    Very few people have common sense these days and no-one seems to want to take responsibility for their own health; they have to 'see' someone to be 'told' what to do instead of using initiative and trying simple remedies to treat symptoms.

    I don't agree entirely with the sentiments regarding patient abilities to cope with similar episodes. I have clients who I know I have spent time with; explaining symptoms and how to treat them. Yet they attend months later with a similar illness; expecting what I'm not entirely sure.

    As long as the government continue to foster the "demand-led" approach to healthcare delivery then the cost of treating minor ailments/injuries will only continue to rise exponentially. When hearing of yet another service being introduced within a PCT to meet patient "demands" a colleague was heard to comment "It may be what the patients want - but is it what the patients actually need?" All it seems to be doing at present in the PCT I work for is to confuse patients, impair and fragment care, increase costs and demoralize staff. In other words the complete opposite of what a patient needs!!

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  • This is a result of the nanny state taking control of people's lives, and they now expect the free paracetamol and magic wands, as above. I almost say it's the lurgy before patients open their mouths..., but the 1 in 50 is truly poorly. I almost missed one in the complacency of `just another sore throat'

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  • I entirely agree with my walk-in centre colleague. I also work in a WIC and find myself in the same situation.
    Patients use us as a 'hand-holding' service' and repeatedly come in expecting the moon from us and if we dont cure little Johnnys cold with antibiotics we are useless. Unfortunately they just go to their gp the following day who then gives them their antibiotics. 2 consultations for a cold..what a waste of resources!

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  • The health service is not a free service, it is paid for by national insurance contributions, stop knocking people for using what they have paid for, Bupa dont complain about their customers attending.

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  • I agree with all the above, exept anonomous at 5:47, it may be paid for by NI contributions, but common sense in minor ailments does seem to be lacking somewhat. BUPA charge more thats why they don't complain!

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