More than 50,000 people called the GP Out of Hours service last year as they had run out of their regular medication, new statistics released during the launch of the ‘Choose Well campaign’ reveal. This number could be reduced by 50% if people think ahead, order what they need and collect their repeat medication before it runs out, particularly over weekends and Public Holidays.
Problems with repeat prescriptions was the fifth top reason people had for contacting GP Out of Hours. This puts additional pressure on the service, which is only for urgent calls that cannot wait until the surgery opens the next day, and can lead to people waiting longer or using other services including Emergency Departments.
The Health and Social Care Board released the figures as part of the launch of Year 3 of the ‘Choose Well’ campaign. The campaign provides information on the range of services available, from self-care right through to 999 Emergency Department cases and urges people to choose the right services to meet their needs. It also encourages people to use the services appropriately.
‘Choose Well’ will run from December 2015 to the end of March 2016 across a range of channels – TV, radio, press social media, web, buses and on ambulances.
Launching the campaign, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said:
“Choose Well is about enabling staff in our emergency services to focus on the people who are the most sick and injured this winter. It’s about making it clear to the public that emergency and 999 services are for life threatening and serious conditions. Many minor healthcare issues, such as common colds, coughs and upset stomachs, can be dealt with at home or by seeking the advice of a pharmacist.
“Before you dial 999 or go to your local Emergency Department, think about your options. I don’t want to discourage those with a genuine medical emergency from calling 999, but simply ask that they ‘Choose Well’ and consider the range of other more appropriate services available.”
Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) Valerie Watts encouraged the public to “Think Where and Choose Well”:
“Last year, nearly 123,000 people visited a community pharmacy each day; and throughout the year – around 12 million people sought help from their GP Practice, around 84,000 people attended their local Minor Injuries Unit and around 654,000 people attended Emergency Departments.
“The majority of people use services appropriately, however, there are a number of people, for a variety of reasons who don’t. It is essential that at a time of increasing pressure on urgent care services and decreasing budgets, we prioritise our use of resources to deal with urgent and emergency cases and we need the public’s assistance with this,” Mrs Watts said.
Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency Dr Eddie Rooney said:
“The ‘Choose Well campaign’ is about informing and empowering people to make the right choice at the right time, whether that is treating a cold, or recognising the need to seek more urgent treatment from, for example, a GP or an Emergency Department.
“Looking after yourself, preventing illnesses from getting more serious, and getting the specialist care and treatment when needed are all a key part of a major HSC wide drive to ease pressures on Emergency Departments and other urgent care services this winter and beyond.”