NHS England is launching a national publicity campaign to ease pressure on GPs by encouraging older patients to visit a pharmacist for minor ailments.

The ‘Earlier, The Better’ campaign starts on Monday next week and is aimed at people aged over 60, according to Pulse. It involves posters on bill boards, bus stops, shopping malls and supermarkets, plus adverts in newspapers and on radio stations.

“Pharmacists can give advice on helping older people manage long terms and on finding medication for coughs, colds and wheezing,” NHS England argues in the adverts.

The adverts will also encourage older people to visit the NHS Choices website for help in managing long term conditions or call NHS 111.

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

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: ‘If a patient feels they need to access NHS services they should do so, but it is often the case where an individual can safely treat their own minor conditions or ailments, for example by visiting a pharmacist for non-prescription medication, rather than having the inconvenience of making an unnecessary GP appointment and then sitting in a waiting room with other sick patients. This will not only relieve pressure on GP practices, but enable GPs to proved better access to their patients.’