Top doctors urge people not to store up health problems if “feeling under the weather”

The NHS will today launch its national public awareness campaign in a bid to persuade people to seek advice early from their local pharmacist if they are ‘feeling under the weather’.

The campaign, ‘feeling under the weather’ has been launched to encourage people, particularly older people and those with existing respiratory conditions, to nip health problems in the bud by seeking early advice from their local pharmacist. It will run for six weeks.

Every year the NHS sees a huge increase in numbers of emergency admissions to hospital over the colder months. Those with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or bronchitis are particularly vulnerable, and for frailer and older people, even the common cold can become more serious.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s clinical director for acute care, said:

“As a doctor who has spent some 30 years working in A&E, I know we have to do better at helping people stay well, not just picking up the pieces when they fall seriously ill. The NHS has not spent enough time broadcasting that message in the past.”

“Every winter, doctors and nurses see a big increase in the number of older and frail people who are admitted to hospital because of respiratory or other chronic conditions usually worsened by immobility, the cold and viral illnesses.”

“People often don’t seek advice for wheezes, coughs and sneezes because they don’t think it’s serious enough, or they don’t want to waste their pharmacist’s time. But no problem is too small for your local pharmacist, who is a highly trained and trusted source of health advice.”

Building on the success of last winter’s campaign and the evidence base for the urgent and emergency care review, ‘feeling under the weather’ aims to relieve pressure on A&E departments by promoting earlier access to health advice and self-care information from community pharmacy services or NHS Choices.

NHS winter planning started earlier than ever before this year, with hospitals, GPs, social services and other health professionals coming together to identify local pressures and respond in every area of the country.   The NHS is determined to protect the good standards of service that patients deserve, despite the very considerable pressures we anticipate over the winter months.

Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for 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.”

“You don’t need an appointment and many have consultation areas so your local pharmacy is a good place to start when you’re feeling unwell.”

“We would encourage people to seek help from their pharmacist when they first feel unwell rather than waiting until it becomes more serious.”

This year’s awareness campaign targets people aged over 60 years old, as well as the carers of older people. It encourages more use of the self-care information about minor ailments and illnesses on the website NHS Choices, as well as more use of the services and advice available in community pharmacies.

The public will see posters on bill boards, phone kiosks, shopping centres and supermarkets, including sites near pharmacies. Adverts will also be run in national newspapers, magazines and a range of websites, as well as on commercial radio stations. Posters are being sent to pharmacy services for display.

Many people are not aware that they can get advice on minor ailments from their local community pharmacy service. Expert help can be provided to people for them to manage their long-term conditions or for ailments such as a bad cough, wheezing, a cold or sore throat. Many pharmacies have longer opening hours than the average GP practice, and most have a private consultation area. If people need to see a doctor, they will be advised accordingly.


  1. Naoimh says:

    I saw a poster for this campaign (briefly) displayed at a bus stop before Christmas. Unfortunately, this campaign – like every communication I get about my health from the NHS (namely screening material) – has been poorly thought out. The writing for what patients should DO is so small that it doesn’t stand out at all. And it was a poor choice to make it white – like the ‘Q&A’. The material is totally ineffective because the communications team have stuck so rigidly to their colours, but still didn’t figure out how to use them effectively – to parse out text. I wonder how many millions was spent on another ineffective campaign.

  2. Jamie Hutchison says:

    I heard the advertisement on the radio today. My God, 60 or over making anyone of that age sound that they have lost the ability to make a sound decision. It amazes me how people at the NHS who put these adverts together think they are speaking to a five year old. I am sure even those over 60 could come up with better ideas how to put the money to better use than paying these shiny backsides to come up with patronising adverts. Yes I am over 60 and I am quite capable of making the decision if I need to see a doctor or not. Please do not patronise my age group. I believe the comment elderly and frail would be sufficient, but I am over 60 so what the hell
    do I know.

  3. Lynne says:

    Old fashioned tried and tested remedies handed down from our Mothers saved time of Doctors and often nipped the problem in the bud. Thus preventing serious illness .
    Also one can buy simple remedies in readiness for the winter ills start.
    Common sense used to be the norm a few years ago. Should get it back!

  4. Graham Phillips says:

    Surely a nationally-commissioned common ailments scheme is a no brainer? It would save £1.1billion for the NHS. Save 57million GP appointments and reduce anti-biotic prescribing.The evidence shows very hight patient-satisfaction rates with low RE_presentation rates. Common NHSE what on earth is stopping you? Prejudice? Lack of vision? What??