NHS England is encouraging patients to seek early advice from their pharmacist if they are feeling unwell following the success of a similar campaign earlier this year.
The six-week 'Feeling under the weather' initiative launched on Friday (October 31) to encourage patients aged over 60 and their carers to "nip health problems in the bud" by visiting their local pharmacist. The outdoor advertising campaign builds on the success of NHS England's 'The earlier, the better' winter pressures initiative in January, which was aimed at the over-45s and also aimed to reduce pressure on A&E.
An evaluation of the previous campaign by market research company Ipsos Mori showed that 44 per cent of 1,949 target age group interviewed in in April were aware of it, while 10 per cent of those had visited a pharmacy as a result.
Ipsos Mori concluded that the levels of public recognition of the campaign had been "encouraging" and "compared favourably" with other campaigns that did not feature TV adverts.
This year's campaign would again feature posters on bill boards, kiosks, shopping centres and supermarkets, NHS England said. Adverts will also appear in the national press, on the radio and on websites, while pharmacists will be sent posters for display, it added.
NHS England said there was typically a "huge increase" in the number of emergency admissions to hospital, particularly from patients who had existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis, during the winter months. For frail older people, even a common cold could become more serious, said the commissioning body, which hoped the initiative would relieve pressure on A&E departments.
NHS England clinical director for acute care Keith Willett said patients often did not want to "waste pharmacists' time" over coughs and sneezes. "But no problem is too small for your local pharmacist, who is a highly-trained and trusted source of health advice," he said.
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said pharmacists were "willing and able" to meet the challenge of changing the way the "cherished, but struggling" NHS was used. It was "encouraging" that NHS England was focusing on the skills of pharmacists, and this approach would deliver benefits for patients and the NHS during the busy winter season, he added.
Marketing materials including posters and leaflets are available to download from the NHS website.
Last month, LPC leaders told C+D that NHS England's campaign could lead to locally commissioned services for older people.