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Poorly urged to seek early advice
Health experts are reiterating calls for poorly people to seek early advice in a bid to cut the number of hospital visits.
NHS England is launching a new campaign - The Earlier, The Better - on Monday, aimed at encouraging people not to store up their health problems.
The eight-week campaign is part of a strategy to drive down A&E attendances across England as well as emergency admissions to hospital that could have been avoided.
A major concern is the high numbers of frail and elderly people admitted to hospital for respiratory problems and other chronic conditions that can become worse in the winter months.
The campaign is targeted at the over-60s together with carers, and signposts people to look for help on the NHS Choices website as well as turning to local pharmacies.
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England's director for acute care, said: "As a clinician who has spent some 30 years working in the urgent care system I am really pleased to see a serious attempt to reach out to the public on this issue.
"We see in our hospitals so many people who have not had or sought the help they need early enough.
"We have to do better at helping people stay well, not just picking up the pieces when they fall seriously ill.
"Too many people make the mistake of soldiering on, losing the opportunity to nip things in the bud. Unfortunately this can lead to an unnecessary stay in hospital, particularly for the more frail, elderly and those with long-term conditions.
"So if you feel under the weather, why not pop into the local pharmacy, visit www.nhs.uk/asap or call NHS 111 for advice on what to do?
"If the symptoms do not go away, then go and see your GP. Of course if it's an emergency then go to A&E."
Clare Howard, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, said: "Pharmacists and their teams are well trained and well placed to be able to offer advice to people seeking help.
"They can provide medicines' advice and support for minor ailments, advise you about how to manage a long-term condition and tell you if something needs more urgent medical attention from your GP, or even your local hospital."