Think tank calls for more self care

The NHS could save more than £800 million a year if patients self care for minor ailments with support from a pharmacist, according to a think tank with close ties to the Conservatives.

But a GP leader warned that moving consultations outside of general practice may miss vital signs of disease.

Cutting down on minor ailment presentations in general practice would help the NHS hit its £20 billion cuts target, the Bow Group says.

There are about 57 million GP consultations for minor ailments each year at an average cost of £32, a report from the group says. Pharmacy consultations would cost about £17.75, saving about £812 million each year, the report adds.

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said many minor ailments schemes had been tried and could be costly. He said picking up important signs of disease was a key part of a GP consultation.

He added that the plan would be unlikely to make savings on this scale: 'In reality, if you free up GP consultations, they are filled by other people.'

The Bow Group report also urged the DoH to consider handing enhanced services such as smoking cessation, weight loss and sexual health programmes to pharmacies.

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