A visiting British general practitioner is urging New Zealanders to take more control of their health through a concept dubbed 'self care'.
Dr Simon Fradd, a practising GP and a founding member of the UK Self Care Forum, is a keynote speaker at the New Zealand Self Medication Industry Association (SMI) conference being held in Auckland today.
SMI executive director Tim Roper said Self Care can include physical exercise and sound nutrition in order to maintain good health and prevent disease, as well as using over-the-counter medication to treat and prevent illnesses and and managing health after hospital discharges.
"It may sound simple enough but the present system isn't working well and people aren't always getting the right care at the right time from the right healthcare professional."
New Zealanders may be wasting up to $126 million a year on unnecessary trips to the GP for minor ailments such as dandruff, constipation, diarrhoea, and colds, Mr Roper said.
"Based upon recent trends in Britain, Australia and United States one in five GP visits in this country may be unnecessary and costing the taxpayer millions in health dollars. "Clearly, with our ageing population and medical workforce, this is unsustainable."
The money could be better spent elsewhere when not wasted on prescribing painkillers or dandruff treatments that people could easily buy without a prescription at the pharmacy or supermarket, he said
"Kiwis need to learn that the GP does not need to be their first option for mild illnesses."
"We believe, for example, the role of pharmacists could be expanded and access to medicines improved, where safety of the medicine is not seen as an issue, to reduce the reliance upon doctors who are already overburdened."
The burden would only increase as the population grew and aged, Mr Roper said.