Patients are being asked to adopt a new three-step 'mantra' to help relieve pressures on GP services this winter.
The Royal College of GPs' '3 before GP' refers to three questions patients should ask themselves before booking an appointment with their GP:
- use NHS Choices or similar reputable websites/resources
- seek advice/treatment via a pharmacist
The College hopes that this simple slogan will encourage patients to think hard about whether they need to see a GP during another busy winter period for general practice – or if they can deal with the problem in a different way.
Workload has increased by 16% in general practice over the last seven years, but the number of GPs has not risen with demand. GPs are now offering more consultations than ever before, with more than 1 million patients seen across the UK every day - but recent RCGP analysis shows that, by 2020, patients will be waiting for an appointment with a GP or practice nurse on 100 million occasions.
Research by the Primary Care Foundation in 2015 claimed that 27% of GP consultations were potentially avoidable.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs are under immense pressures all year round, but, as we know, the colder months bring additional challenges. "Not being able to get an appointment is frustrating for both patients and GPs, but there are a variety of alternatives to consider first and I would encourage patients with more minor illnesses to think hard about whether they actually need to see a GP.
"The '3 before GP' mantra is a simple and easy way to help reduce the strain on general practice, and we hope it will enable GPs to spend more time with patients who have complex health issues and are most in need of our expert help."
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