Casualty for the common cold is £500,000 waste

Photo: Gavin Spencer

Patients are wasting up to £500,000 a year by going to accident and emergency for minor ailments, according to hospital authorities in Lewisham. Frivolous complaints reported at casualty centres in Lewisham ranged from the common cold to getting bandages redressed.

NHS Lewisham claims that if patients with minor illnesses visited a pharmacy or GP instead of A&E, they could save enough money to fund 83 hip operations or 14 extra nurses. Their latest campaign aims to make the public consider the wide range of alternative services that are available.

Despite past high profile attempts to encourage people to use other treatments, Director of Strategy and Systems Management at NHS Lewisham, Martin Wilkinson, thinks primary care services, which include pharmacies, GPs, dentists and NHS Direct, need to be made even more accessible to the public.

“Primary care is open and accessible but some people don’t think it is. We’ve decided to do a localised campaign in Lewisham, questioning 800 people and gathering lots of local information. People didn’t know how much was being spent on services so by releasing these statistics, people can see what this wasted money could be used for.”

The campaign has been tailored to certain groups, like the elderly, people with long-term illnesses and worried mothers, who often go to A&E unnecessarily.

It also wants to encourage people to use pharmacies to get medical advice. Patients often overlook pharmacies for fear that they will not receive adequate treatment.

But Darragh Logan, a pharmacist at the Station Pharmacy in New Cross, adamantly stated that people did not realise that pharmacists are qualified to treat minor illnesses.

“We go to university for four years, but people think we’re shopkeepers. Being a pharmacist requires a lot of clinical knowledge and training.”

The NHS Lewisham campaign is also keen to encourage patients to go to its new Walk in Centre in New Cross, where they can see a GP for minor injuries or medical problems, without an appointment.

Since its launch in March, the Walk in Centre has received more admissions than expected, although that has been matched by the high numbers of A&E admissions for minor illnesses.

Mr Logan said now that numerous services are in place across the borough, ‘the aim is to try and get people to go to the right one.’

For more information on where to go for treatment, go to

Leave a Reply