The chair of the BMA general practitioners committee said that large numbers of patients continue to go to casualty and see GPs with simple common conditions such as a sore throats, colds and coughs or flu.
Speaking to ITV News in response to the upcoming launch of an NHS campaign to encourage people who are ill to seek early advice, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said most of these conditions can be effectively treated through remedies available from the local pharmacist.
"There's no doubt that hospital casualty departments and GP surgeries are both overstretched," he said. "Its important that patients can make use of services in the community such as the pharmacist or from the 111 service. That's what we would want patients to do in the first instance."
Health experts are launching an advertising campaign aimed at encouraging older people who are ill to seek early advice, in a bid to cut down A&E visits and emergency admissions.
NHS England's eight-week campaign 'The Earlier, The Better' targets the over-60s amid concern over the high numbers of frail and elderly people admitted to hospital for respiratory problems and other chronic conditions that can become worse in the winter months.
The campaign, which launches on Monday, encourages people to look for help on the NHS Choices website as well as turning to local pharmacies.