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Fifth of A&E visits 'unnecessary'

One in five visits to A&E departments is unnecessary at a cost of £290 million to the NHS every year, research has suggested.

The Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) said 19.1% of visits (3.6 million) to A&E are for minor issues, while GPs preside over more than 57 million consultations a year for minor ailments costing the NHS £2 billion a year.

The PAGB, the UK trade association for manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines and food supplements, said the health service must to do more to inform people of how to look after themselves.

Minor problems like coughs, flu and muscular pain could be safely and effectively managed at home or with the advice of a pharmacist, it said.

PABG chief executive Matthew Speers said: "Self care is about empowering people to look after themselves and use the NHS in the most effective and efficient way.

"It is vital that the NHS raises awareness of the range of different services available to people and when to access them appropriately. Pharmacists are well placed to provide advice to people with minor conditions, who don't need to visit the GP or A&E, thereby ensuring they receive the support they need, without diverting NHS resources from people who really need them.

"In 2002 the Wanless Review warned politicians and health leaders that unless they acted to encourage more people to take control of their health, the NHS would face a rising burden of avoidable illness. Thirteen years later the NHS is facing a financial, demographic and workforce crisis. This cannot continue and that's why we are calling for immediate action.

"Encouraging more people to self care appropriately will result in a healthier population, a stronger workforce and a more sustainable NHS."

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