The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is asking patients to take three steps before visiting their GP in a bid to relieve pressure this winter.

The college asked patients to consider the slogan “3 before GP”’, which refers to three questions patients should ask themselves before booking a GP appointment.

The three questions are:

  1. Can I self-care?
  2. Can I use NHS Choices or similar reputable websites/resources?
  3. Can I seek advice/treatment via a pharmacist?
The RCGP believes that the slogan will encourage patients to think hard about whether they need to see a GP during another busy winter period for GPs – or if they can deal with the problem in a different way.

The  workload in General Practice has increased by 16% over the last 7 years, but the number of GPs has not risen with demand.  Official figures show that the number of full-time equivalent GPs in England decreased by 1,200 between September 2016 to September 2017.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs are under immense pressures all year round, but, as we know, the colder months bring additional challenges.”

“Not being able to get an appointment is frustrating for both patients and GPs, but there are a variety of alternatives to consider first and I would encourage patients with more minor illnesses to think hard about whether they actually need to see a GP.

‘The ‘3 before GP’ mantra is a simple and easy way to help reduce the strain on General Practice and we hope it will enable GPs to spend more time with patients who have complex health issues and are most in need of our expert help”’

In some areas of the country GPs have been offered hundreds of thousands of pounds to put on extra appointments this Winter.

This article originally appeared in Pulse Today magazine.