Patients should visit their pharmacist before they see a GP, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has advised as part of a new campaign to alleviate demands on general practice.

Patients should ask themselves three questions before booking a GP appointment, including whether they could seek advice or treatment from a pharmacist, according to the RCGP’s ‘3 before GP’ campaign.

They should also consider whether they could address their symptoms through self-care or use reputable resources such as NHS Choices.

The ‘3 before GP’ mantra is designed to encourage patients to see their GP unnecessarily during the busy winter period, the RCGP said.

The campaign received an endorsement with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on 29 December.

RPS spokesman Neal Patel said: ‘Pharmacists are the experts on medicines and can help people with both questions about winter bugs as well as concerns about side effects of prescription medicines.

‘Crucially, pharmacists can help you decide when that worrying symptom is something you can manage yourself or when you should seek help, which is especially important over the holidays when your GP surgery may be closed.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We're used to pharmacists dispensing prescribed medication or being somewhere we go to buy over the counter medication but it is easy to forget what a brilliant source of advice and wisdom they can offer the population which is why we can include them in this list.’