The earlier the better 

27/01/2014 00:00 
NHS England has launched its first national public awareness campaign to encourage people not to store up health problems and to seek advice from their local pharmacist as early as possible.

The eight-week campaign – called ‘the earlier, the better’ – aims to help nip health problems in the bud and reduce unnecessary stays in hospital.

It follows NHS England’s urgent and emergency care review, published last November, which highlighted the rising number of emergency admissions to hospital that could have been avoided.

The review also highlighted the need to improve care outside of hospital and to increase public understanding of the alternatives to A&E.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, medical director for the medicine board, said UCLH supports the campaign.

He added: “Everyone has a role to play to ensure Emergency Department (A&E) staff and facilities are immediately available to those with greatest need, especially the critically ill and injured.
"This campaign helps people understand the other options available: local pharmacies, NHS 111 and their local GP. The Emergency Department is for just that, real emergencies, we all need to ensure we help to use this precious resource in the best way for each other.”

Since last November NHS England’s most senior clinicians have been encouraging people to seek help early over the winter period.

Their biggest concern has been the rising number of older and frail people who are admitted to hospital because of respiratory or other chronic conditions usually worsened by immobility, the cold and viral illnesses.

They say the answer lies in better self and family care, early recognition of illness and urgent access to medication, primary and community care.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s Director for Acute Care, said: “As a clinician who has spent some 30 years working in the urgent care system I am really pleased to see a serious attempt to reach out to the public on this issue.

“We see in our hospitals so many people who have not had or sought the help they need early enough.  We have to do better at helping people stay well, not just picking up the pieces when they fall seriously ill.

“Too many people make the mistake of soldiering on, losing the opportunity to nip things in the bud.  Unfortunately this can lead to an unnecessary stay in hospital, particularly for the more frail elderly and those with long-term conditions.

The media and poster campaign will mainly target people aged over 60 years old, as well as their carers. It will focus on encouraging people to use the NHS Choices website for information on how to deal with minor ailments and illnesses, as well as make more use of the services available in community pharmacies.

Many people are not aware pharmacists can help people manage their long-term conditions or ailments such as a bad cough, wheezing, a cold or sore throat. Many pharmacies have longer opening hours than the average GP practice, and most have a private consultation area. If people need to see a doctor or go to hospital, they will be advised accordingly.

People are urged to go to their local pharmacy, visit  or call NHS 111 for advice on what to do.  If the symptoms do not go away, it’s suggested they then go and see their GP. Of course if it’s an emergency then go to A&E.

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