GPs tell patients with coughs and colds to 'stay away'

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Media captionDr Steve Bassett says otherwise healthy adults should let coughs and colds run their course

GPs have warned patients with coughs and colds to stay away from surgeries - with cases at a seasonal high.

They said coughs in particular have been leading to people contacting their local surgeries "in droves", when in reality they do not need to.

"Coughs and colds simply have to run their course," said Dr Steve Bassett, who is based in Swansea.

Only those whose symptoms become more serious, such as fever, should contact GPs.

In most circumstances, plenty of rest and fluids, keeping warm - and time - are the only cures, said Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, which covers services from Swansea to Bridgend.

Antibiotics are also ineffective against common chest infections, so a trip to the GP surgery is "pointless, and takes up an appointment slot which a really sick patient might need".

Dr Bassett, who is also the lead GP for the new non-emergency 111 pilot service in the area, added: "If you have a cough - even if you are producing green phlegm - if you are eating and drinking normally and are otherwise pretty well, then we don't need to see you.

"It's only if you have other symptoms, such as a fever as well as a cough, or have problems breathing or are vomiting, that we may need to investigate further."

Andrew Evans, chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, encouraged people to ask their local pharmacist for advice.

"They are experts in medicines and their use and are able to give advice on a range of conditions without the need for an appointment," he said.

And chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said people can use an NHS app to understand which service they need.

"In many cases, people go to emergency units when they could have received the same advice from a local pharmacist or been seen and assessed in a minor injuries unit, GP surgery out of hours doctor.

"The message is clear. Choose well to help save lives."

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Mark Walker, deputy medical director and GP for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said there is little GPs can do to help patients with the common symptoms of a cold.

"Visiting a GP seeking treatment for a cough makes it harder for others who need an appointment to get the treatment they need. We're also aware of people who have failed to make a GP appointment turning up at Emergency Departments, which again has a knock-on effect for waiting times."

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Media captionCardiff pharmacist Sudhir Sehrawat says many colds do not require antibiotics

Cardiff and Vale health board also said many people were going to their GPs with a persistent cough, and stressed there was very little a GP can do.

Cwm Taf University Heath Board said it was managing a high level of demand, as expected in winter.

The advice also applies to children under five with a cough or cold who are otherwise active and eating normally. They do not need a visit to the doctor.

Earlier this week Cardiff and Vale health board warned University Hospital of Wales' emergency unit was "extremely busy" after the new year's extended holiday and asked the public to "play their part" in making use of local chemists.

A spokesman said the hospital was still "pretty busy" and urged patients to choose well.

In the Hywel Dda University Health Board area, which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, patients are being urged to use a new community pharmacy service if they have a low-level injury or illness, in a bid to free up pressure on A&E departments.

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