Overstretched Greater Manchester doctors are telling patients who do not require urgent care to stay away as winter sets in.
Ahead of Ask Your Pharmacist Week, which starts yesterday, new figures show more than 51million Britons visit their GP for routine illnesses, costing the NHS an unnecessary £136million every year.
Healthcare workers in Rochdale expect a huge surge in patient numbers as temperatures plummet, with the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks raised by cold weather.
Dr Lynn Hampson, a GP in the borough, said: “This is putting a strain on resources at a very busy time.
“We need to ensure that, during the winter, ambulance staff and A&Es are free to help those with serious and life-threatening conditions.”
GP consultations regarding minor ailments amount to nearly a fifth of their workload.
Each year, 40,000 GP visits are for dandruff, 20,000 for travel sickness and 5.2million for blocked noses.
Dr Hampson added that one in four A&E patients in Rochdale did not need to use the service, while 12 per cent of emergency patients nationally admitted going to A&E knowing they were not badly ill.
The money wasted nationally on dealing with issues which pharmacists could address would pay for 6,500 extra nurses at a time when NHS funding is being scaled back.
Earlier this year, Monitor, the economic regulator for the NHS, forecasted real-terms cuts of more than eight per cent to hospitals.
The pleas in Rochdale echo the government’s national ‘Choose Well’ campaign, which encourages people to ‘help themselves’ by using pharmacies and over-the-counter remedies.
The appeals to Rochdale patients come two weeks after NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale re-launched a scheme to allow people to have certain prescriptions made up without visiting a doctor.
Atika Islam, a Rochdale pharmacist, said chemists can do a lot more for people than simply giving out medicines.
She said: “Don’t forget we’re there for you all year round.
“Some pharmacists even give flu jabs and we also give advice on many healthy lifestyle options, such as managing your weight, stopping smoking or taking more exercise.”