Patients have been advised not to “store up” health problems but to seek advice early in a new campaign from NHS England.
The Earlier, The Better, starting today, aims to reduce unnecessary stays in hospital, following the urgent and emergency care review published in November last year.
The report highlighted the increasing number of avoidable emergency admissions and the need to improve community care while increasing public knowledge of alternatives to A&E.
According to NHS England, better self care could reduce the numbers of older and frail people who are admitted to hospital because of respiratory or other chronic conditions.
Urgent access to medication, primary and community care as well as early recognition of illness is key, NHS England has said.
The awareness campaign will target people aged over 60 years old, as well as carers. Posters will be on billboards, bus stops, shopping centres and supermarkets, as well as near pharmacies. Adverts will run in newspapers, magazines, on websites and commercial radio.
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s director for acute care, said: “Too many people make the mistake of soldiering on, losing the opportunity to nip things in the bud. Unfortunately this can lead to an unnecessary stay in hospital, particularly for the more frail elderly and those with long-term conditions.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee said: “Encouraging patients to self-care is an important part of a wider strategic approach that is desperately needed to reduce the pressure on NHS services.
“If a patient feels they need to access NHS services they should do so, but it is often the case where an individual can safely treat their own minor conditions or ailments, for example by visiting a pharmacist for non-prescription medication, rather than having the inconvenience of making an unnecessary GP appointment and then sitting in a waiting room with other sick patients. This will not only relieve pressure on GP practices, but enable GPs to provide better access to their patients.”
Royal College of General Practitioners chair Dr Maureen Baker said: "There are numerous benefits for patients who self care - as long as they are appropriately supported by their GP or other health care professional. If patients are in control, it can improve the quality of their lives immeasurably and make a dramatic difference to their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
"Self care empowers and supports our patients as well as enabling us, as GPs, to ensure that people with long-term conditions receive the best possible care which we can deliver.”