Open letter from GPs urges patients to treat minor illnesses at home

Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee in Northern Ireland

UNDER-pressure GPs are asking patients to treat minor illnesses common over the winter period at home due to increased workloads.

The chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee for Northern Ireland warned that some practices may have to cut their opening hours, stop routine services or deal with cases over the phone.

In an open letter, Dr Tom Black said services faced "unprecedented pressure" from an "increased workload and a severe shortage of doctors".

He said the "abject failure of local politicians to address these issues has exacerbated an already critical situation".

"To help manage workload we would encourage patients, where possible, to deal with minor illnesses such as sore throats, coughs and colds with treatment at home. Your local pharmacy should be your first point of call for these minor issues," he wrote.

"We would also encourage everyone who is eligible to get their flu vaccine as we expect the influenza epidemic to be severe this winter.

"This crisis in GP services has been caused by a lack of funding, a huge increase in workload and a failure to attract young doctors into general practices. The average GP is now responsible for the care of 2,000 patients."

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