Doctors in south east Northumberland are urging patients suffering minor ailments to stay away to free up time for those in greater need.
Patients need to give more thought to where they go for treatment when they feel unwell as pharmacists might well be a better bet, they say.
Alnwick GP Dr Graham Syers, one of the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s clinical directors, said: “Pharmacists are highly trained and very much an underused resource in terms of the advice they can offer to patients. Many people don’t realise that pharmacists train for five years, so you can rely on them for detailed knowledge of medicines.
“With more than 700 pharmacies in the north east and no need to make an appointment, it’s far simpler to ask a pharmacist about minor things like coughs, headaches and winter vomiting.”
Demand for NHS services rises in cold weather, so it’s crucial that time is available for those most in need, he said.
“Winter weather means more slips and trips, and generally more of us feeling unwell as we spend more time indoors and coughs, colds and other viruses are passed around,” added Dr Syers.
“That adds up to more people wanting to see their GP, attend an accident-and-emergency unit or call 999, but it’s important to stop and consider the best service for your needs.”
“Most normally healthy people with a winter illness do not need to see their GP, attend A&E and absolutely do not need to call 999.
“Colds, sore throats, headaches, hangovers, upset stomachs, coughs, aches, pains and winter vomiting should all be treated at home or with advice from a local pharmacist, with painkillers, rest and plenty of fluids.
“That way, you are helping to reduce the spread of winter viruses and also keeping appointments available for people with serious health conditions who must see a doctor or nurse.”
For more information, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell