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Fifth of appointments wasted on ‘worried well’, leading GPs warn

By Gareth Iacobucci

Senior GP leaders are warning that the ‘worried well' are putting the NHS under unsustainable pressure by going to see their GPs for coughs, colds and other minor ailments that they could treat themselves.

In a letter to The Times, the group suggests that a shift in behaviour could save the NHS £10 billion over five years.

The letter is signed by GP heavyweights including former RCGP chairs Professor David Haslam and Professor Mike Pringle, NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon, and former GPC chair Dr John Chisholm.

They warn that common treatable ailments are accounting for almost a fifth of GP appointments and are costing the NHS £2 billion annually.

The letter declares: 'We are now in a society in which the common disturbances to normal good health, such as coughs and colds, account for nearly one fifth of GP workload.'

As many as a fifth of GP consultations are taken up by the 'worried well', senior GPs have warned The letter in full

Sir, We are now a society in which the common disturbances to normal good health, such as coughs and colds, account for nearly one fifth of GP workload. New research reveals the catastrophic impact of this dependency on the NHS and how the NHS has become the victim of a demand-led culture. Seeing a GP for ailments that can be self-treated is estimated to cost an astonishing £2 billion every year. There are 51.4 million consultations annually for minor ailments alone. A shift in behaviour around treating minor ailments could save the NHS that money without any cuts to services whatsoever.

Our Self Care Campaign, which launches today, is therefore calling on all political parties to support our aims: to allow people to be confident in their self-care choices; enable GPs and practice nurses to give people the confidence to use the NHS at the point of need, not demand; educate people to manage minor ailments so that GPs and practice nurses' time is freed up to look after more complex conditions; and ensure that children learn to understand health issues and how to use the NHS.

Dr John Chisholm CBE, GP
Dr Michael Dixon OBE, NHS Alliance, GP
Professor David Haslam, GP
Douglas Smallwood, Diabetes UK
Professor Nigel Sparrow, GP, Nottingham
Plus 12 other signatories representing the Self Care Campaign:
Dr Ian Banks, Men's Health Forum
Peter Baker, Men's Health Forum
Dr Simon Fradd, GP
Sheila Kelly, Proprietary Association of Great Britain
Gopa Mitra, Proprietary Association of Great Britain
Dr Raj Patel, GP, NHS Alliance
Professor Mike Pringle CBE, GP, University of Nottingham
Sara Richards, Registered General Nurse
Dr Peter Smith OBE, GP, National Association of Primary Care
Dr Paul Stillman, GP
Lynn Young, Registered Nurse
Susan Summers, North West Strategic Health Authority