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Earlier the better NHS campaign for the over 60s

February 2014

The National Health Service in England has launched a major campaign to help persuade especially the over 60s to seek medical advice earlier.

It is a two month project which 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 in November last year, 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.

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 people who are admitted to hospital because of respiratory or other chronic conditions usually worsened by 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.

The awareness campaign targets people aged over 60 years old, as well as the carer’s of older people. It will in particular encourage more use of the self-care information about minor ailments and illnesses on the website NHS Choices, as well as more use of the services available in community pharmacies.

The public will see posters on bill boards, bus stops, shopping malls and supermarkets, including sites near pharmacies. Adverts will also be run in national newspapers, magazines and range of websites, as well as on commercial radio stations. Posters are being sent to pharmacy services for display.

Many people are not aware that they can get advice on minor ailments from their local community pharmacy service. Expert help can be provided to people for them to manage their long-term conditions or for 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, they will be advised accordingly.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s Director for Acute Care, told Laterlife:

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.

Professor Willett says that if you feel under the weather, why not visit the local pharmacy, visit or call NHS 111 for advice on what to do. 

If the symptoms do not go away, then go and see your GP. Of course if it’s an emergency, then go to A&E.

“ 'The message ‘the earlier, the better’ is crucial for our patients. The NHS has not spent enough time broadcasting that message in the past. I would urge the public to listen and act: it’s the right thing to do for you and the NHS,” he said.


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