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Tell patients not to consult GP with cold or flu symptoms, says NICE

Practices should tell patients to go to a pharmacist or consult NHS Choices for minor complaints like cough, flu or earache instead of making an appointment with their GP, under advice from NICE aimed at raising awareness of the need to cut down on inappropriate antibiotic use.

NICE said in a draft guideline titled Antimicrobial stewardship – changing risk-related behaviour in the general population that the public should be informed ‘in health care settings’ such as GP surgeries how to recognise when they have a self-limiting condition and how to treat it at home.

The guidelines add that patients should be told ‘GPs or A&E should not be the first point of call’, and ‘encouraged to use pharmacists and other reliable health resources such as NHS Choices’ instead.

A NICE spokesperson said the recommendations to provide this information could also ‘be aimed at national agencies with a remit for public health, NHS England regional teams, and NHS trusts’.

Meanwhile the guidelines call for ‘national and local campaigns’ on how to stop the spread of infections, through measures like handwashing and safe food storage.

The draft guidelines come after NICE chiefs recently said that GPs who ‘persistently over-prescribe’ antibiotics should be referred to the GMC, under antimicrobial stewardship guidelines aimed at doctors and NHS managers that were published last month.

NICE subsequently moved to appease the GPC over the comments, but GP leaders called for a national advertising campaign to help the public understand the need to limit antibiotic use, rather than relying only on measures supporting GPs to improve appropriate prescribing.

The latest proposed guidelines aimed at the public will be published in final form next year.

Readers' comments (19)

  • Gosh fancy that - never thought of that one.....we do but the great unwashed just dont listen, you ivory towered twits.

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  • Are they paid for coming out with such earth-shattering relevations as these? I think NICE people "should" spend some considerable time in clinical practice and learn what we are doing already. This is actually a public health issue - are NICE also telling public health what they should be doing?

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  • What a great idea, must try that!
    Thanks NICE!!

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  • OMG. They get worse. Do they honestly think that GPs have not been trying to get patients to self manage for years? Is there any GP in NICE?

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  • Vinci Ho

    If this guidance is principally for the general public , we want to see real actions to sell it to the public . Stop passing the buck and blame GPs!!!

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  • Oh for heaven's sake!!! Majority of practices already do this already!

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  • Nice, What is the point of you existing. Sucking eggs anyone?

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  • This article is to reduce the impact of the antibiotics article.

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  • Vinci Ho

    The first article was like my scornful mother taught me a lesson with punishment warning if I did not follow her instructions .
    This article is telling me my mother is a woman!
    (The damage was already done by the first)

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  • Theresa Eynon

    Clearly NICE do not consult receptionists, who are the guardians of our precious appointments. Patients do not present with 'colds' or 'flu'. Patients know that these do not respond to antibiotics and that the GP will tell them to 'sod off, it is a virus'.

    Patients tell receptionists they have 'a chest infection' or 'tonsillitis' both of which might be bacterial and might require antibiotics.

    Perhaps NICE would like to recommend the development of evidence based training in the administration of screening checklists by reception staff?

    Prof Paul Little's FeverPAIN score has not yet been evaluated in this setting, but would be a good place to start.

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