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NHS Confederation - New campaign urges people to seek treatment earlier
Targeting the over-45s and over-60s, the campaign – 'The earlier, the better' – advocates more use of services available in community pharmacies and aims to reduce unnecessary stays in hospital.
It asks those caring for or visiting an elderly relative to get advice from their local pharmacist or from www.nhs.uk/asap to prevent a minor illness developing into something more serious.
The campaign will run from 20 January to the end of March 2014.
It follows findings from the first phase of 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.
Alternatives to A&E
It also drew attention to the need to improve care outside of hospital and to increase public understanding of the alternatives to A&E, a point raised by NHS Confederation members in a September 2013 briefing, Emergency care: an accident waiting to happen?.
"As part of preparations for this winter, our members called for a public information campaign on alternative ways to access unplanned NHS care, so clearly we welcome the launch of 'The earlier, the better'," said Dr Karen Castille, chair of the Confederation's Urgent and Emergency Care Forum.
"There is a huge amount of healthcare expertise in the NHS outside of emergency departments, and it is right for NHS England to raise awareness about where, when, and how the public can get advice and treatment in their local community, without needing to go to A&E," she added.
"This approach also encourages people with known chronic conditions to manage their own health and prevent deterioration in their condition - promoting better care of the most vulnerable people in the community with the support and involvement of their family and friends.
"Co-management of conditions, and greater involvement from carers in healthcare planning and decision making, has also shown a positive impact in reducing urgent and emergency care pressures.”
The public will see adverts in national papers and websites, hear adverts on national radio stations and see posters in local pharmacies.
Dr Castille added: "The pressures on NHS urgent and emergency care services are higher now than they have ever been. We know that one of the reasons behind this unprecedented demand is that information on where, when and how to access healthcare can be fragmented and confusing.
"Patients frequently wait too long to seek help, often waiting until their condition becomes serious enough to warrant full A&E services.
"A&E has always served as the ‘catch-all’ healthcare ‘safety-net’, but the genuine rise in seriously ill, frail and vulnerable people is already putting more than enough strain on the system."
Find out more
Find out more about the campaign on NHS England's website.