National Health Service bosses have launched a campaign to persuade patients to stay away from hospitals and general practitioners (GPs) this Christmas, and use privately-run pharmacists instead. The NHS’s medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, said the NHS is unable to cope with the “unprecedented” demand on it.
The NHS is one of the world’s largest employers and has a budget of around £110,000,000,000 (£110bn) a year. However, staff are asking people who are feeling unwell to go to privately run pharmacists instead of using public sector facilities. Professor Keogh said that a lot of the ‘strain’ on the public sector facilities could be relieved if people went to said pharmacists.
He told the Daily Mail: “Many of these [chemists] have private consultation rooms where you can get quite good advice”. He also said that pharmacies do not generally have long queues, in contrast to NHS hospitals. Keogh said: “You don’t have to wait in a pharmacy… You can generally see someone in a matter of minutes. They can either recommend off-the-shelf treatment or, if appropriate, send you to your GP or to attend A&E.”
“Are things going to go on like this? Are we going to have to keep putting more and more sums into the NHS? The answer is it is not sustainable in the long run to say all the extra pressure in the NHS has to be borne by the A&E department.”
The government has given the NHS an extra £300m to get over the winter period. Despite the money many hospitals are running at unsafe levels, causing concerns that patients may be put at risk unless demand can be quelled.
One idea being floated is forcing people to pay to use their doctor, despite having already paid for the service through taxation.